Summary: Submit to all human authority, because of Christ, because of your critics, and because you are free!
At the spring 2000 opening of the Florida Senate, Donald L. Roberts, president and CEO of Goodwill Industries, offered a prayer. I think you’ll appreciate the candor of it. In part, this is what he prayed:
Holy and Eternal God, it must be great to be God, to get what you want—when you want it—how you want it. We mere mortals are not that lucky. We are always having to compromise to get what we want. We call the process "politics”...
In the midst of all this “politicking” during Session, we know we are supposed to “Be still and know” your will for our lives and all the people of the State of Florida—with every lobbyist in the world bugging us to death. So, God... we... call upon you to come and be in these Senate Chambers today.
Thank you, Lord, the Session is almost over, the budget deal is cut, education got some more money, we cut a few taxes, and in the end, most everyone in this chamber didn't get everything they wanted. And that's the good news.
That's politics, Lord, and unless you want to move over and give us the job of being God, which some of us think is our birthright, we will have to muddle along being satisfied with being the best politicians you can create. It's the fun part of being human. In the name of the God of all things, even politics and politicians... Amen. ("Weblog: The Way We Believe Now, According to The New York Times,” ChristianityToday.com; www.PreachingToday.com)
At best, politics is messy. At worst, it is one massive power-grab over another. So that raises a question that Christian believers have been debating for centuries from the 1st Century believers under Nero to the Reformers in the 16th Century who established state churches to the preachers in the 18th Century who laid a moral foundation for the American Revolution to sincere believers in the 21st Century today, living under increasingly godless governments.
And that question is this: What should be the Christian’s involvement in politics? What should followers of Christ do when it comes to trying to create a better society overall? What should citizens of heaven do when it comes to their responsibilities as citizens here on earth? Well, if you have your Bibles, I invite you to turn with me to 1 Peter 2, 1 Peter 2, where Peter writes to a group of Christians suffering under government persecution in the 1st Century and instructs them how they should relate to such a government.
1 Peter 2:13-14 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. (ESV)
Now, that’s a surprise! Peter doesn’t tell them to RESIST a government that’s persecuting them. He tells them to SUBMIT to such a government. That’s right. As followers of Christ, God calls us to...
SUBMIT TO ALL HUMAN AUTHORITY.
Obey every government official from top to bottom, from the supreme human authority to the officers he sends out to administer justice.
Now, that term submit is a military term, which literally means “to rank under” or “to put yourself under the authority” of a superior officer. And that’s the way God calls His people to relate to all governing officials.
You don’t have to like it or even agree with a governing official, but like an enlisted man in the military, you respect the position or the office. You respect it enough to obey every order that doesn’t go against God’s law itself (Acts 4:19).
Ideally, government officials punish those who do evil and praise those who do good. Ideally, they administer justice fairly and impartially, but that’s not always the case, is it? It certainly was not the case when Peter wrote these words under the emperor Nero.
According to historians, Nero, a man with light blue eyes, thick neck, protruding stomach, and spindly legs, was a crazed and cruel emperor, a pleasure-driven man who ruled the world by whim and fear.
His mother, the plotting Agrippina, managed to convince her husband, Claudius, to adopt her son Nero and put him, ahead of Claudius' own son, first in line for the throne. Maternal concern not satisfied, she then murdered Claudius, and Nero ruled the world at age 17.
Later, Nero had his mother stabbed to death for treason and his wife Octavia beheaded for adultery. He then had Octavia's head displayed for his mistress, Poppaea, whom years later he kicked to death when she was pregnant.
Unfortunately, this was only the tip of Nero’s bloody and treacherous reign. In AD 64, he set fire to Rome and tried to blame that fire on the city’s small Christian community to defer the rising amount of criticism he was receiving day by day. He burned many Christians alive and sentenced Peter and Paul to death in an attempt to purge Rome of all Christians.