B.C.P. 3rd Sunday after Easter 1 Peter 2:11-17
11 Dear friends, I urge you, as aliens and strangers in the world, to abstain from sinful desires, which war against your soul. 12 Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us. 13 Submit yourselves for the Lord's sake to every authority instituted among men: whether to the king, as the supreme authority, 14 or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right. 15 For it is God's will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish men. 16 Live as free men, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as servants of God. 17 Show proper respect to everyone: Love the brotherhood of believers, fear God, honor the king.
I would like you to imagine that you had absolute freedom to do what you like. What would you do? Rob a bank? That would actually affect other people's freedom to enjoy their money and the bank employees freedom to work in a safe environment
We live in a society where a great deal is made of freedom, but also of people's rights. So what happens when the exercise of someone's freedom adversely affects themself, or someone else? There is the sense in which we cannot be truly free because of this. In fact living life according to a code can bring freedom. How could you be free to, say, enjoy playing football if there were no rules? It would actually cease to be football.
Christians, by definition, have been freed from the law of sin and death to follow God's ways. In today's reading Peter instructs us how to live as those who are freed by Jesus to live for Jesus.
Immediately before today's reading Peter had called Christians a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation. Today's passage tells us how they and we are to behave as Christians. It refers to us as 'strangers and pilgrims'.
Peter was writing to Christians who were being persecuted for their faith. At first Christians had enjoyed the official protection of the Roman empire. Under Nero (A.D. 54-68) all that changed, and the apostles Peter and Paul were probably martyred during Nero's regime. Peter addressed this letter to "strangers in the world" (1:1), an indication that Christians were now viewed as a separate, persecuted minority without legal rights.
Do we belong to the world or God? There are different standards. This causes tension and difficulties. Either when we take a stand, or inwardly when we are unhappy with something. At work, home, school, local community, in national or international news.
When we experience these things we can rejoice ! It shows we do not belong ! We are on our way ! 'Pilgrims', on spiritual journey. End up in heaven. Meantime live in sinful, fallen world that has rejected it's creator and his ways.
Living the Christian faith involves us not doing some things and doing others. It is like changing clothes. A putting off and a putting on. We are to 'abstain from fleshly lusts' instead do 'good works' which will bring glory to God when Jesus returns. Don't expect a reward in this life. Don't look to be a Christian and be commended for it by people, leave it to God. He will justly reward those who have lived for Him.
Verse 13f. Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord's sake: whether it be to the king, as supreme; Or unto governors, as unto them that are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers, and for the praise of them that do well. Submit to those in authority who are put there to punish evildoers and commend those who do right. This is easy to say where there is a just government. What about places where this is not the case ?
We need to remember context of Peter's letter where the church was being persecuted. He is still telling Christians to obey every authority. Not merely just ones.
We remember injustice of cross and way Jesus did not retaliate but trusted in God to deliver him.
Verse 15. For so is the will of God, that with well doing ye may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men:
We should act in a way that speaks for itself. Our good deeds should show the love that we have received from God and that we pass on to others. As Christians we should be very careful not only about what we do, but also what we say. Not take part in gossip. Our 'well doing' or good deeds should silence ignorant talk, not fuel it.
Verse 16. 16 As free, and not using your liberty for a cloak of maliciousness, but as the servants of God.
We are free not to do what we like, but to be servants of God. Some Christians think they are forgiven and therefore don't have to try too hard, living lax lives.
A servant has no rights, only duties. No freedom other than to do the will of their master. That is summarized in verse 17 Honour all men. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the king.
We have a duty to honour everyone, love our fellow believers, fear God - not terror but respect, honour the King i.e. those in authority. Pray for them.
Let us use our freedom in Jesus to live lives that bring glory to God as we willingly submit to Him and to those he has appointed to govern.