Obedience from within Persecution

As Christians, our life in Jesus is lived counter-cultural. Many of Jesus’ teaching were viewed as radical as it went against the logic of His day.

He taught that if someone slaps you on the right cheek, let him slap your left cheek. If someone takes your cloak, give him your tunic as well. If anyone asks you to walk a mile, go two miles. (See Matthew 5:38-42)

The idea is not that Christians are going to be bruised, clotheless people who do a lot of walking, but that to follow Jesus will require you to live differently that how others live.

The Bible is to be the guiding source of the thoughts and actions as a  follower of Jesus. It is the word of God and the Holy Spirit who resides in every believer, which separates us from the world.

As His disciples, the Bible teaches us how to relate to the social structures of our day. For the believer, these are not optional instructions but a lifestyle.

This tension between the philosophies of this world and the wisdom of God often translates into persecution, both directly and indirectly, of the church.

Indirect persecution can be activities or laws that promote a way of life that is opposite or some times offensive to the Christians lifestyle.

Direct persecution is when laws or rulers make it illegal to be a Christian, as some experience around our world today.

Peter, one of Jesus’ disciples, share with us godly wisdom on how to live in a world that imposes a diametrically different system of living upon us.

In 1 Peter 2:13-18, the central theme of this passage is found in the first two words, “Be subject.”

The word “subject” comes from the Greek word, “hypotasso,” and it means to subjugate, place in submission.

To subjugate is to be brought under control, using force. This is one of the stricter words used to express the idea of submitting to another.

Submission and obedience are two familiar concepts found in the Bible.

  • “Obedience is better than sacrifice.” 1 Samuel 15:22
  • “But this command I gave them: ‘Obey my voice, and I will be your God, and you shall be my people. And walk in all the way that I command you, that it may be well with you.’ Jeremiah 7:23
  • “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.” John 10:27

Obeying God’s word produces results human logic cannot.

What makes Peter’s instruction so scandalous is that he is teaching obedience to every human institution, whether it’s to the Emperor or those authorities he sets in place.  

The word “every” in the Greek language means all, a totality or the whole.

Peter leaves no room for exceptions or exclusions. As followers of Jesus we are not given the luxury of picking and choosing which authorities or which rules we want to obey.

1 Peter 2 gives two reasons why are to honor those in authority.

#1 It is for the Lord’s sake. Our actions as believers reflect who God is to the world around us and our commitment to Him.

How we represent God influences others and causes them to either honor or dishonor God’s name.

24 For, as it is written, “The name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you.” Romans 2:24

The second reason why we need to honor those in authority is #2 It is the will of God.

By submitting to the offices and institutions of authority, Christians demonstrate that they are good citizens and not anarchists. Rebelling against the will of God is never justified or righteous.

Look at what these two verses say about rebellion.

  • “For rebellion is as the sin of divination…” 1 Samuel 15:23
  • “Evil people are eager for rebellion, but they will be severely punished.” Proverbs 17:11

Keep in mind, “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:28

If we neglect obedience within difficult times, we may forfeit the good things God redeems from our bad situations.

Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.” 1 Peter 2:12

“On the day of visitation” means that there may be some who become believers and celebrate Jesus’ return with you. Through obedience, we build bridges and not walls with unbelievers.

Obedience may lead to suffering, but that does not free us from our responsibility to obey.

In the book of Acts, it says the Apostles went around teaching the people and “strengthening the souls of the disciples, encouraging them to continue in the faith, and saying that through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God.” Acts 14:22

Hardships in life will increase our longing for and our anticipation of eternal life in heaven! It detaches us from anything that may anchor our affections to this world.

It’s human nature to think about how these restrictions may be a precursor to lasting conditions. The Bible gives us instruction when it comes to worrying about “what-if” scenarios too.

“Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.” Matthew 6:34

  • Let’s stay in this moment. This season will pass.
  • Let’s see what new thing God wants to do in us and through us.
  • Let’s see how God may use us and involve us in transforming how we operate as a church to make a greater impact in this world!
  • Let’s be the church the world needs to see!

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