honor the Emperor

Back in the fall I settled into 1 Peter. In the midst of suffering and misunderstanding, I wanted to know the Lord more. He spoke to me clearly through His word – the Bible. As I wrote every word of 1 Peter, copying from my worn out Holman Christian Standard Bible, words came out of me in prayer to my Father in Heaven. Then words came out through my laptop to share with my friends.

Then I stopped. I hit a passage that I wasn’t sure that I should comment on. Did I avoid it in my reading? No, but I didn’t think that I had what I needed to share my thoughts or what I was learning in such a volatile time for our country and world.

So I voted – not for Trump or Hillary – if you were wondering, and the election passed by.

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Our citizens continue to divide and categorize one another by political affiliation above all else. The polarized state of our culture becomes more and more apparent each day, instead of calming down since the election ended.

Now I sit on my new – to me – sofa on tax day (although, what day isn’t a tax day, really?) and consider the words that caused my public reflections on 1 Peter to stop back in October.

“Submit to every human authority because of the Lord, whether to the Emperor as the supreme authority or to governors as those sent out by him who punish those who do what is evil and to praise those who do what is good.” 1 Peter 2:13-14

Sigh. So, my initial response when reading this – ugh – is total pushback. The part of me that has lived with government interference and failure wants to rage against the system when I read this. But is raging against the system the correct response for the follower of Christ (seeing as how that’s who Peter is talking to)?

Instead of a full out rage, a few observations from these short verses.

1. We submit to honor the Lord.

Why do we do anything as Christians? Our purpose is to bring glory to our Father. “The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.” There is no neutrality in this – or anything. Either we honor and glory the Lord or we sin.

2. We submit to every human authority.

That means wives to husbands; believers to pastors and elders; employees to employers; students to teachers; children to parents; citizens to government. It’s worth mentioning that right before this verse Peter says, “conduct yourselves honorably among the Gentiles.” He’s setting up his call to submit to authority as a way to glorify God.

3. The government’s job is to punish what is evil and praise those who do good.

Full authority to do whatever they please with their citizens is not given to the government. They are in place to help people do good. So what about when they don’t do good? What about when they praise evil? What about when they steal from their citizens and don’t honor their own form of government? Those are the questions. Those are the questions that I can’t answer for you, but I implore you to sit with the Scripture to consider. For me, it looks like submitting in the places that do not cause me to sin. Then using what influence or voice – however small – to advocate for what I believe is a government that offers true freedom and honors the Lord. Without breaking the law, I consider options for my life outside of direct government control as I make decisions for my family.

Even now I find myself searching for the right words. The words that articulate what I believe to be true without going too far from the topic at hand. But let me say this, Christian. When you submit to your governing authorities – even when we know that how taxation occurs in America is theft – you honor the Lord.

“For it is God’s will that you silence the ignorance of foolish people by doing good. As God’s slaves, live as free people, but don’t use your freedom as a way to conceal evil. Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the Emperor.” 1 Peter 2:15-17

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untangling from lies

When was the last time you struggled to do the right thing? Yesterday? Today? Moments ago? Every time that one person speaks to you or looks in your general direction? When you got into your car and saw other cars out there too?

I have those moments. And that person. And all the parking lot sanctification problems. Along with those moments and people and problems I have a boat load of excuses and reasons for why I needed to say what I said or do what I did. “It makes perfect sense if you only you knew what happened. If only you knew this person. If only they understood how to drive through the lot with slanted spaces!”

If only my circumstance or those other people were different then I would be different…

That’s a lie.

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We like to believe that lie, because then we don’t have to take responsibility for our actions. If it’s his fault or her fault or their fault, then we don’t have any reason to repent. We believe that we are generally good and have it pretty much together. So we seek out friends to give us a pat on the back and tell us how wrong the other people are. But if we really looked at ourselves we’d see what Jesus said, “out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks.”

Words come from what is already inside our hearts, not from what is outside of us. When we sin in times of agitation, it’s not their fault, it’s ours.

Peter knew of our propensity to sin. So he gives this command in his letter:

“Dear friends, I urge you as strangers and temporary residents to abstain from fleshly desires that war against you.” 1 Peter 2:11

As people who have a righteous standing before God, we are called to live lives that reflect that standing. We are indwelt with the Spirit of God. Peter doesn’t pretend that it’s the other person’s fault that we sin. Instead, he calls us to fight our flesh. When we feel the urge to sin: wage war!

But how? Well, the simple answer today comes in the form of another lyric from All Sons and Daughters.

‘Cause I am a sinner, if it’s not one thing it’s another. Caught up in words. Tangled in lies. But You are a Savior and You take brokenness aside and make it beautiful.

Jesus. He is how. That’s the answer. He saves and then not only gives us positional standing, but enables us to do what He’s called us to. He makes us beautiful. We need only to keep our eyes fixed on Him.

When our eyes are not set on that person or circumstance but on Christ, we will see that we have all we need to wage war against sin in our lives.

What are some tangible ways that you keep your eyes on Christ so that you’re able to wage war on sin?

why I must tell it to the masses

If you asked my husband how I like to listen to music, he’d tell you that I like to over saturate the air around me with one song. I find a song that I enjoy then play it until it becomes a part of who I am. Music has helped me trust the Lord by reminding me of truth.

True lyrics help me cry out to the Lord in times of suffering and celebration.

A recent conversation led me to begin listening to the band All Sons & Daughters. As the smooth harmonies filled my ears, the third song on their Spotify caught my attention.

And all will sing out Hallelujah. And we will cry out Hallelujah.

I’d heard the song before, but I’d never stopped and listened. So I stopped. I listened. And then I realized that it was not only a song about everyone, but a song about me.

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All the hearts who are content. And all who feel unworthy. And all who hurt with nothing left. Will know that You are holy.

Am I content? Is that me? Sometimes. The lesson of contentment that Paul learned – in little or much – is one that I relearn regularly. My sin stands in the way and I get caught in the comparison trap. But I’m thankful for the verse that I’ve heard so many times in the last few days that helps me remember.

“The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of who I am the foremost.” 1 Timothy 1:15

I am the worst one. It’s my discontent heart that makes me feel unworthy. It’s the pain of my unholiness that stands so starkly against the holiness of my Heavenly Father that makes me cry out. It’s the undeserved and amazing grace of Jesus that makes me cry out.

And all will sing out Hallelujah. And we will cry out Hallelujah.

It’s His grace – when I’m so aware of my sin and unholiness – that overwhelms my weary soul.

Shout it. Go on and scream it from the mountains. Go on and tell it to the masses. 

That He is God.

His goodness is why I can’t stop. It’s why I won’t stop. God’s sacrifice on my behalf is the life-giving reason why I love this song. He’s the God who turns discontent and unholy and unworthy hearts of stone into hearts of flesh. He’s the reason we will all eventually cry out…

Hallelujah. He is good.

All the Poor and Powerless, by All Sons & Daughters: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ieOL4X3nk2c