Honor the Emperor

Something has really gotten under my skin lately, something that seems to be divisive and completely contrary to Christian behavior. It’s a uniquely American problem and I believe it’s undermining our influence in these troubling times.

Let me begin by saying I am incredibly apolitical and struggle to see the inherent value of taking sides. While I can freely admit there are moral differences between the political parties of our nation, being a registered Republican is still not a requirement to enter the Kingdom of Heaven.

What I do see in Scripture though is a responsibility to respect the leaders of our communities, states, and nations despite their aversion to the Bible or God’s teachings. You simply can’t find an excuse in First Peter 2 to disrespect our leaders when their political views don’t align with yours. You’re simply told to “honor the emperor” and to “submit yourself to every institution for the Lord’s sake” (see 2:13-17).

What’s really bugging me is the disregard so many of my fellow Christians have towards the truth of those passages. Their disdain is palpable. You see it all over their social media accounts, their voting records, and even their discussions in public. It’s as if they simply overlook what God has asked of us because it’s un-American.

It’s ripping us apart at the seem.

Today, my confidence in our “testimony among the Gentiles” is pretty low. Unfortunately, I don’t think the average non-Church goer sees us as people of peace, respect, and forgiveness. I’m sure this is all a matter of perception, but I’ve come to learn, perception is reality.

If you’re reading this, I don’t actually think you’re a part of the problem. I see so many people (and converse with them daily) who are pragmatic, responsible, and level-headed. Then, I notice the rest of us. It worries me that so many of them are Christians and it worries me they might invalidate the work of so many who aren’t as gung-ho as the mob of righteous avengers.

To me, the problem is a systematic failure to understand Second Timothy 3:16. That verse simply says, “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for doctrine, reproof, for correction, and for instruction in righteousness.” The easiest word to overlook in that passage is all. You and I know it simply means everything and by it’s inclusion that passage teaches us something emphatic. I hope you’re ready for this, it’s actually quite simple, yet groundbreaking at the same time – both the verses we find convenient and practical and the ones we find hard and unreasonable are equally inspired (i.e. God-breathed).

Quite simply, that verse helps me realize the passages within Scripture that cause my American sensibilities to struggle, rationalize, and practice what they preach are there because I need to hear them. If that’s what it takes to make me a “complete man of God, thoroughly equipped for every good work,” (see Second Timothy 3:17), then so be it.

So very often, I feel the need to shout First Peter 2 at the top of my lungs when I venture onto social media, but I digress. I just don’t want to join the circus and be thrown in with the lot that fights online. So I sit it out, hoping common sense will eventually win out.

On that day, I pray the Christians who can’t help but proclaim their American rights as loudly as possible will remember the words of Romans 13:1-2 which says,

Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God. Therefore whoever resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God; and they who have opposed will receive condemnation upon themselves.

Then, I hope they’ll do some homework and study about Nero, the man who sat on the throne of the Roman Empire when the letter to the Romans was written (around AD 55-57). I hope they’ll study the systematic persecution of the Church he brought about just a few years later (around AD 64). Then, I’d like to ask them, “why didn’t God send Paul to go back and edit Romans?”

I hope they’ll realize it wasn’t changed because God still expected those Christians to honor “the emperor.” He didn’t tell them they have to agree with his behavior or his politics. They didn’t have to vote for him or support his claim to the throne. They didn’t even have to respect what he did, but they were still expected to honor his position.

Might I ask everyone to consider those circumstances when a mask or a few difficulties bother us enough to curse, belittle, or degrade our governor, mayor, or local representatives publicly and privately. At the end of the day, I don’t think we can find a Biblical reason to justify that behavior.

Scripture taken from the New King James Version. Copyright (c) 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.