13 Submit to every human authority because of the Lord, whether to the emperor as the supreme authority 14 or to governors as those sent out by him to punish those who do what is evil and to praise those who do what is good.
17 Honor everyone. Love the brothers and sisters. Fear God. Honor the emperor.
1 Peter 2:13-14, 17
I’m composing this devotional 69 days before the U.S. Presidential election—one of the most politically and socially contentious seasons in modern American history. Many on both sides believe that the very future of the republic is in jeopardy—what Anne Applebaum considers to be the Twilight of Democracy (2020).
And, coincidentally, if this devotional is published according to schedule, today is election day! Some predict, given the expected volume of absentee ballots, the results (unless there is a landslide victory by either party) could take days to determine. Can our social fabric handle it? Some say our country has been through difficult moments in history and survived. That may be true, but how will we look as a community and a nation, even a church, on the other side?
The Apostle Peter has an antidote, one that must begin with God’s church before a disbelieving public is willing to seriously consider it. So how are we doing with honoring everyone, loving the brotherhood, fearing God, honoring the emperor? If we are honest, the church in America, with a few bright spots here and there, looks suspiciously similar to the broader culture. We’ve become quite capable of spewing angry vitriol.
While argument and vociferous debate is appropriate in a democratic republic, the church should be reminded of another admonition from Peter when he advised the church to be ready to give a defense…for the hope that is in you. However, do this with gentleness and respect (1 Peter 3:15-16).
Hmm. How are we as a church doing with that one? When is the last time you had a calm and respectful conversation with someone who is diametrically opposed to your perspective or even your worldview? Would you dare go home with Zacchaeus for lunch, for fear that you would be accused by members of your “tribe” as guilty by association? I’m fearful we privately take delight in seeing our enemies, within the church and without, crash and burn.
Theologian Miroslav Volf remarked:
Enormous problems happen when we exclude our enemy from the community of humans and when we exclude ourselves from the community of sinners—when we forget that our enemy is not a subhuman monster but a human being, when we forget that we are not the perfect good but are also flawed persons. By remembering this, our hatred doesn’t kill us or absorb us, and we can actually go out and work for justice (2019).
Recall, we are all created in God’s image (Genesis 1:26-27), and our beloved Declaration of Independence reminds us that we hold these truths to be self-evident that all men [and women] are created equal. Today, election day, pray not only for our elected and appointed officials, but also for ourselves, because we the people have formed this union. It’s always been a fragile experiment—like no other in history. And, as Ben Franklin quipped, our nation is “a republic…if we can keep it!”
Applebaum, A. (2020). Twilight of Democracy: The Seductive Lure of Authoritarianism. New York: Doubleday.
Volf, M. (2019). Exclusion and Embrace: A Theological Exploration of Identity, Otherness, and Reconciliation. Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press.
Questions to Ask Yourself
- In the spirit of honoring everyone (v.17), can you think of two or three people who do not share your perspective or worldview with whom you can begin a conversation based upon mutual respect? A place to begin could be by first listening and asking questions that are not demeaning or judgmental but done in a Christ-like spirit to gain understanding. This may require that you prayerfully prepare yourself before beginning this journey.
- While personally holding high the ultimate, transcendent truth of God’s Word, would you consider exposing yourself to books, articles, or online videos as a means for gaining deeper understanding of oppositional viewpoints? Initially, this may be awkward and emotional. Ask God to help you think biblically and analytically about these contentious issues.
Have each family member find a picture of a cat or dog they could see being added to the family. At dinner, describe your picture before sharing it to see if your family members can guess what you chose. Use this time to share we all have different ideas or plans. This is the same while walking through life. We have an idea or plan that God reveals is the same as His but a lot of times we find out His plan is different. We are to always trust God’s plans even when it comes to who He places to be our President.
Pray for the International Mission Board missionaries’ prayer requests for today by going to this link: https://www.imb.org/pray/