Let’s face it, no matter where you fall on the political spectrum, submitting to the government regularly over the span of your life can be tough. You may have leaders you agree with at the local or national level from time to time, but you will also most likely encounter leaders you don’t agree with. As a Christian, what are we to do about this?
Read these words from Peter in 1 Peter 2:13-15: “Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme,or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good.For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people.”
Wow. That is a tough verse. And we are living in a democratic society where we can vote someone out in a few years if we don’t like them. What about people living in authoritarian regimes? No matter where you are at, submission to the government can be a challenge. So how do we make these verses practical?
First, notice the ground for our submission. It is not how great of leaders they are. It is not how much we agree with their political agenda. The reason for our submission to “every human institution” is “for the Lord’s sake.” (1 Peter 2:13). The governing authority of the entire universe has told me to submit to even poor leaders for His sake. Honestly, this should really be reason enough. When God commands us to do anything for His sake, we should willingly do it because of who He is.
So if I do submit when I don’t agree, what fruit does my submission produce? 1 Peter 3:15 says, “For this is the will of God, that be doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people.” Notice two results. First, we get to live in the will of God. Many want to know God’s plan for their lives. It appears here that one of God’s plans for all of our lives is for us to be submissive to the governing authorities the Lord has allowed to be over us.
Second, it is to silence the ignorance of foolish people. Sadly today we think the best way to silence the ignorance of foolish people is to blast our ideas on social media. Can I just ask, how is that working for everyone? Have any of you received any messages from those on the other side saying, “Hey thanks for the post. Your post has completely changed all of my political views.” If you really want to silence ignorant and foolish people, try to submit and do good and see what happens.
Now, what about when government leaders are corrupt? Or do corrupt things? Or forbid you to go to Church or seek the Lord? I do believe there are times and reasons when we can’t fully submit to governing authorities, (such as abortion or racial injustice), I do believe our default position towards our governing authorities should be one of submissiveness. I am not saying this is easy and that there are no caveats (check out Jesus with his whip in John 2!). However, as our country continues to become more politically polarized, we Christians can lead the way by being submissive to even those leaders we don’t see eye to eye with.