Honor the King

Peter calls on Christians to live in an exemplary way, showing in their lives the excellency of godliness. “Beloved, I urge you as aliens and strangers to abstain from fleshly lusts which wage war against the soul. Keep your behavior excellent among the Gentiles, so that in the thing in which they slander you as evildoers, they may because of your good deeds, as they observe them, glorify God in the day of visitation” (1 Peter 2:11-12). It is a call to go “above and beyond” in our effort to reflect the light of Christ.

The fleshly lusts that Peter cautions us about are by no means limited to sexual sins. Paul’s list in Galatians 5 includes “enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions” (v. 20).

As Peter begins to help us apply his principle, the first area he turns to is our relation to civil government. “Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether to a king as the one in authority, or to governors as sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and the praise of those who do right. For such is the will of God that by doing right you may silence the ignorance of foolish men. Act as free men, and do not use your freedom as a covering for evil, but use it as bond-slaves of God. Honor all people, love the brotherhood, fear God, honor the king” (vv. 13-17).

In this time of political division and rancor, every one of us would do well to pause and consider our own conduct in the light of Peter’s instruction. Let’s ask ourselves three questions.

Am I honoring the king? Yes, I know we don’t have a king, and I also know that kings and governmental officials sometimes act in dishonorable ways. That is not the point (Nero was Caesar when Peter wrote this!). Regardless of the [mis]behavior of officials, I am to act honorably toward them. Does my conversation express that? How about my social media posts, shares, and likes? Am I praying for all leaders, regardless of party affiliation (1 Timothy 2:1-2)?

Am I using my freedom as a bond-slave of God? Peter was speaking of our freedom in Christ, not our civil freedoms (cf. Galatians 5:13). One must not use his overriding allegiance to Christ as an excuse for broad disregard of governmental authorities. Only when there is a direct conflict must we “obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29). Yet we could make a point about our civil freedoms. The fact that our constitution gives us the right to say what we think politically does not alter Ephesians 5:29: “Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear.”

Could I, given my conduct, win someone to Christ who is opposite me politically? That is Peter’s principle. That is what Christians are all about!

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