I want to share with you a little chat I had with our students last week. I began our time together with the question, “Who is aware there’s an election coming up next week?”. Every hand went up.
Then I asked, “Who is somewhat concerned about the outcome of that election?”. Again, every hand went up.
We like to paint our teenagers as apathetic, lazy, and disinterested. However, my experience has been that the students of CPC are thoughtful, conscientious, and invested in the events of our world.
I shared with them the passage in 1 Peter. I suppose we could file this with all the other verses we wish weren’t in the Bible, but here it is: God’s truth laid out for us (and for our good). Peter encourages us to “be subject”, and goes on to list earthly authorities present in his world: the emperor and the governors he appoints.
I asked our students, “Who was the emperor when Peter wrote this?”. They guessed Nero, and they’re probably right.
(Notice there’s no clause or footnote clarifying that subjection to earthly authorities only applies to morally good leaders of our preferred party in constitutional republics. I’ve checked.)
Peter goes on to exhort us to do good, so that regardless of who’s in charge, our lives might be a testimony bearing witness to a greater King. He exhorts us to live our lives freely giving, freely loving, and freely serving our neighbors because we ourselves are servants of a greater King. It’s as if he’s anticipated objections:
“But Peter, what if the emperor wants to take away our second amendment rights?”
“But Peter, what if the emperor wants to take away our access to healthcare?”
“But Peter, shouldn’t we be afraid of the emperor and fret about the power he wields to dictate our lives?”
Peter, inspired by the Holy Spirit, responds something like this: Do good to all. Fear God alone. As for the emperor? Honor him, for in doing so you honor the one who set him, ever so intentionally, in his place of temporal authority.
Where does Peter get the nerve to say this? He gets it, perhaps, from his hymnbook. Though nations rage and peoples plot, though earthly rulers set themselves up against God and godly men, the Lord sits in heaven and laughs (Psalm 2). He brings their counsel to nothing and frustrates their plans, for it is His counsel which stands forever (Psalm 33). We ought not to fret because of evildoers, for they will soon wither away. Instead, we ought to place our trust in God – and do good (Psalm 37). Let us not put our trust in princes or the sons of men, for there is no salvation with them (Psalm 146). Peter’s hymnbook was rich with assurances of God’s sovereign control in politically turbulent times.
More pertinently, Peter anchors his words about emperor subjection in a deeper reality. “For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God…” (1 Peter 3.18).
It is good to care about the outcome of our elections. Better still to vote and let your voice be heard. I’m writing this on Saturday morning in advance of the election. Perhaps by Thursday we will have a declared victor. Whoever it is, we ought to pray for him. But, whether our preferred candidate wins or loses, let us remember our hope is not in the President, or in Congress, or in the Supreme Court. Our hope is in our good and gracious King who died, rose, and is coming again soon.
~ Pastor Jeremiah