Word for the day by Christian Education Forum
Christian Participation in Nation Building
1 Peter 2:13-17
v. 13-15 – “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.”
When I’m driving, I’m always fascinated by the bumper stickers and custom license plates people choose to put on their cars. The other day I saw a bumper sticker that read, “I stand for the flag, and kneel for the cross.” The American identity and the Christian identity have become remarkably intertwined, despite the fact that both groups base their beliefs on documents that warn against that bond: The First Amendment for Americans, and numerous Bible passages such as this one for Christians.
Our primary – and really only – identity was meant to be as Christians. Jesus made this abundantly clear when he said things like, “My Kingdom is not of this world” (John 18:36). Paul echoed this when he said, “But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ” (Philippians 3:20).
It’s easy to get caught up in the political matters of the day, but Christians were called from the beginning to see the current world as temporary; our focus is meant to be on something greater. People frequently tried to trap Jesus by asking him about issues of government and politics, but he never concerned himself with such matters; instead, he said “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.” Christianity was never meant to be a political force because our allegiances in this world show our ties to temporary, fading things. We are incredibly blessed to live in the United States, but it is not the kingdom we are called to focus on.
So, what have modern day Christians done with their American identity? The early church took pride in its poverty and suffering for the sake of Christ. Peter calls on believers in this passage to live in peace with local authorities and follow, but with an emphasis on being so full of love and righteousness that their actions speak for themselves. When you turn on the news today, though, what are the stories you hear about Christians? Grievances about “wars” on Christmas or Christians; lawsuits claiming the rights of Christians being infringed; stories about Christian groups wielding immense power and influence on politicians to change very specific laws. Even worse, rarely are any of these arguments written in the language of love. How often do you hear about the Church fighting for the rights of the poor, the oppressed, or the sick? Have you ever heard a story of Christian groups using their political power and influence to support laws helping people in need? We weren’t meant to acquire political power to air our grievances; we were meant to humbly accept suffering for ourselves in the name of Christ while using our voices to show love for God’s people.
Ask yourself, when a non-believer thinks of a Christian in America, will they see the kind of believer Peter describes in this passage? And if not, how can we hope to convince others of the love of Christ?
Lord, help us to remember that the issues of this world are temporary, but Your kingdom is eternal. May we use our blessings here to help people see You in this world.
THOUGHT FOR THE DAY
“I like your Christ, but not your Christianity.” - Mahatma Gandhi
Dr. Justin Mathew, Long Island MTC
Christian Education Forum, Diocese of NAE of the Mar Thoma Church