13 Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human authority: whether to the emperor, as the supreme authority, 14 or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right. 15 For it is God’s will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish people. 16 Live as free people, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as God’s slaves. 17 Show proper respect to everyone, love the family of believers, fear God, honor the emperor.
Respect for Authority
What does it mean to be respected or to give respect? I often think of it as related to a talent – someone is good at something so we give them praise because they are competent. In this case, though, Peter is asking for the Christians to show respect for someone who is corrupt and an enemy of Christians. On what basis can a person be respected? In this case it is by virtue of their position. Even though Christians are free from an identity primarily dictated by their social status, they can use their freedom to create a good name for Christians. They can submit to the authorities and be model citizens.
Americans are known for rebellion. Questioning authority often is a way of describing a disrespect for authority. We look to undermine the authority of a position. In movies the policemen are shown as corrupt, parents are shown as foolish, and teachers are shown as immoral. This does reflect a portion of society, but our fascination with exceptions can become a stereotype that leads us to rebel against societal structures and community organisation. Christians need to uphold law and order as much as possible. They need to use their freedom to keep others free from chaos and disorder.
We want to be our own bosses and sometimes submission to authorities is distasteful to us. Soften our hearts to rulers, parents, and teachers. Reestablish the fabric of society so that it functions peacefully. Let us be the ones to lead the way.
- What should be a Christian stance toward authority?
- Why did Christians in Asia Minor have to hear a message of respect for authority?
- How is the image of slavery used?
- How do you respect the authorities of your school, government, or household?
- How can you encourage others to both question and submit to authority?