The Apostle Peter lived to see a time when it became increasingly dangerous to profess one’s self a Christian. In his latter years, public opinion in the Roman empire shifted against Christians on a wide scale. Christians were held in contempt by the populace because of their convictions against the pervading pagan religion of Roman society. This caused many in that day to view Christians with suspicion and animosity; a sentiment that Emperor Nero used to his advantage in AD 64, when eleven districts in Rome burned in a fire which raged for a week.
Nero-- an arrogant narcissist-- was also unpopular with the people, and rumors quickly spread that he had set Rome ablaze for his own gain. An historian of the time records how Nero was able to rid himself of the bad publicity: “to get rid of the report, Nero fastened the guilt and inflicted the most exquisite tortures on a class hated for their abominations, called Christians by the populace”. These allegations aroused a great public anger against the Christians, and as the same historian continues, “...a vast multitude, were convicted... and in their deaths they were made the subjects of sport; for they were wrapped in the hides of wild beasts and torn to pieces by dogs, or nailed to crosses, or set on fire, and when day declined, were burned to serve for nocturnal lights.” This was the world which the Apostle Peter and other Christians faced in the early days of the Church.
As public opinion shifted, as political pressure was exerted and as Christians were being arrested, Peter wrote an open letter to the churches. It is possible that this letter was penned from Rome itself, as Peter was eventually brought up on charges, for not only practicing a dangerous religion, but for proselytizing it as well. In this letter, one of two written at the end of his life, Peter directly addressed the kind of attitude a Christian is to have toward his community and government. Surprisingly pithy, Peter simply states that believers are to “Honor all people. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the king.”
I get loving the brotherhood of believers, and I get that I should fear God; but how in Jesus Name is a Christian supposed to honor people who hate him, and honor the king who will kill him? Peter so eloquently retorts, “when you do good and suffer, if you take it patiently, this is commendable before God. For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps”. Obviously, Peter took his witness seriously at a time when his faith was a life and death commitment. Do we take our faith as seriously?
Whether fellow Christian or Atheist, gay or straight, Democrat, Republican, or even Libertarian, do we as followers of Christ give honor and respect to all people. In the Scripture, Satan himself was afforded respect in an argument with Michael the Archangel, who “did not dare to bring a slanderous accusation against him”. And what about the king? I think any scholar would agree that a fair application of this verse to Americans is that we should honor the President. I certainly believe that robust disagreement and passionate debates are to be encouraged in our democratic republic; but for the Christian, this must carry with it the weight of dignity, honor and respect as commanded in the Bible.
Both the Apostle Peter and Jude condemn those who disrespect authority figures. Peter says of “those who... despise authority. They are presumptuous, self-willed. They are not afraid to speak evil of dignitaries.” Jude agrees when he states that “these dreamers... reject authority, and speak evil of dignitaries... Woe to them!”
Whoever we vote for, or don’t vote for, as Christians we must be circumspect in our attitudes and cautious in our public protests. We are not free to indulge in our passions as others, for we have taken the Name of Christ, and may it not be said that we have taken it to ourselves in vain and without thought. We answer to the highest calling, and like Peter, we must be committed to be faithful in our witness of Christ. We must be serious about our faith, as the Apostle says, “not conforming yourselves to the former lusts, as in your ignorance; but as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct.” Thus if Peter could honor Emperor Nero, can’t we honor our President, even if he is Barack Obama? WWJD?
In : Politics
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