Not a fun topic, especially with the kind of folks who make up Scum of the Earth Church—a group of amazing, passionate young people who have seen part of their subculture’s mission as reprimanding corrupt institutions, being skeptical of corporations, and questioning governmental leaders.
It’s a prophetic calling, really.
And yet, in the Bible, there are commands to respect that which God has placed over us—even if there are bad people in those positions. It doesn’t make sense when one remembers that Christianity has been seen, historically, as a subversive movement by many of those in power.
Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human authority: whether to the emperor, as the supreme authority, or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right. For it is God’s will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish people. (1Peter 2:13-15)
How often have we viewed civil authorities as the enemy? In many movies, television shows, and books we paint police and politicians as evil (or at least incompetent) people who should be disobeyed. We can’t stand the injustice they perpetrate. When they are defied, it is to the delight of the reader and the cinema audience.
The Apostle Peter—the guy who wrote the Bible passage above—once cut off the ear of a government official who was coming to arrest Jesus (and do you honestly think he was just aiming for the man’s ear?) Later on in his life, Peter still had plenty of reasons to mistrust those who ruled the Roman Empire. Christianity was outlawed. He was flogged, beaten, imprisoned, and finally crucified upside down by the “authorities” he writes about—all for speaking the truth about Jesus, the Savior of that world.
That Peter would obey civil authority at all is amazing. That he would encourage other Christians to do so is mind-boggling. He becomes more concerned about the reputation of Christ than about his own sense of justice. He submits himself to the laws of the land—as long as they don’t break the higher laws of God. When he refused to defer to the empire’s demands to stop talking about Jesus and discipling churches, they killed him.
We, in the Western world, enjoy more freedoms than any people at any time in history. So, let us obey the laws we have to the glory of Jesus; that is, until the time when our obedience to the nation becomes disobedience to God.