1 Peterby David Burge
As a father of four children, I have taught each of them that it often takes more strength to do right than it does to do wrong. It can be very hard to forgive and be kind when our strong desire is to hold a grudge or to act selfishly.
Meekness requires the strength of being submissive and humble, which was modelled by Jesus (Matthew 5:5; see Philippians 2:6-8). Christians can submit themselves to others because we know it is ultimately God, not the people with authority or power over us, who truly governs everything. Peter repeatedly calls Christians to meekness-to ″submit yourselves″ (1 Peter 2:13, 18; 3:1); to be ″compassionate and humble″ (3:8); and to be those who may ″suffer for doing good″ (3:17).
Peter gives examples of how this applies to four spheres of authority under which Christians may struggle: governors or emperors (2:13-17); masters (2:18-20); husbands (3:1-7); and lastly, meekness towards one another and towards the world in general (3:8-4:11).
Peter begins with the instruction to submit to ″every human authority″ (2:13) and mentions the emperor and the governors who rule. Why do we submit to human authorities? Peter says it is ″for the Lord's sake″ (v. 13). Human rulers are ″sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right″ (v. 14).
God created us to be relational beings who form communities. He sets governing authorities to prevent anarchy that comes when people do whatever they want. Our allegiance to God does not mean we ignore these means of social order; instead, we must gratefully recognise their authority (see Paul's similar instruction in Romans 13:1-7).
Christians live under the lordship of Jesus, but this is never to be an excuse for breaking civil laws, such as avoiding taxes or embezzling funds or resources from work. Such behaviour dishonours the Lord and gives unbelievers reason to condemn the way of Christ-this would be using our freedom ″as a cover-up for evil″ (1 Peter 2:16).
If we do good in society's eyes, and together form a reputation for being upstanding citizens, our record will serve to ″silence the ignorant talk of foolish people″ (v. 15) who may accuse Christians of various evils. Historically, Christians have been used mightily by God for the flourishing of society, not by avoiding the world, but by serving it in Christ's name.
Some governing authorities are faithful in their service of people, and others less so. The emperors and governors in Peter's day were often tyrannical and unjust. And yet Peter points to their God-given authority and the need to submit to them as long as they do not demand disobedience to Christ (see Acts 4:18-21; 5:29).
He concludes with a most helpful summary, which would be valuable to memorise: ″Show proper respect to everyone, love the family of believers, fear God, honour the emperor″ (1 Peter 2:17).
What are some things you can thank God for in the way your national or local authorities govern?
How might you honour someone you expect to relate with today?