How do citizens of a heavenly nation live faithfully as temporary citizens on earth? How can you survive the election without losing your faith, your friends, your witness, . . . or your mind? Those are the questions we’re answering this week by examining six truths about exile citizenship from 1 Peter 2:11-17.
Here’s the sixth and final truth: know you’re free. Peter summarizes this section beginning in verse 16—Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God. That’s an interesting paradox, isn’t it? Peter says we are free, but we’re also servants. 500 years ago, the German Reformer Martin Luther put it this way: “A Christian is an utterly free man, lord of all, subject to none. A Christian is an utterly dutiful man, servant of all, subject to all.”[i]
In other words, if God has set you free from bondage, you’re no longer a slave to other people. But because God has set you free from bondage, you’re now free to serve other people. Peter is saying to these Christians—some of whom are actual slaves, as we’ll learn next week—that they are free. They knew nothing of the freedoms we enjoy today as 21st century Americans, yet they were free. Why? Because Christ died to set them free! As Paul says in Galatians 5:1—For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.
Here’s my concern for some of you: you may be free, but you’re living like slaves. For some of you that’s because you’re not genuine Christians. Oh sure, you believe some truths about Jesus, but you haven’t given Him your life. You think that giving your life to Jesus means losing your freedom, but in the end you’re just another slave to something or someone. Friend hear me: there is no Master who will love you like Jesus. Surrender to Him today!
Most of you are Christians, but some of you are still living like slaves. Your happiness hinges too much on what happens on November 3. You’re a slave to the election. Surrender it to Jesus! Do you trust Him, that whatever He ordains is right? Do you trust that He is God, no matter what happens? Do you trust that He is good, no matter what happens?
What does it look like to be free? Peter tells us in verse 17—Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor. The Christian is free to obey each of these four commands.
Are you honoring everyone? What about people who disagree with you politically? Do you honor them? Or are you just like all the slaves on Fox News and CNN and MSNBC who mock and insult everybody who disagrees with them? If we posted your private conversations on the screen, would we see evidence of honor for the people who disagree with you? What about your social media posts? Are you honoring everyone, or are you living like slaves?
Are you loving the brotherhood? That’s a command to love the brothers and sisters in your church family. Do you love them? What if they disagree with you politically? What if they vote differently than you? Do you love them? I was reminded recently that among Jesus’ 12 disciples were a zealot named Simon and a tax collector named Matthew. Zealots and tax collectors were political enemies. The zealots wanted liberation from Roman occupation and the tax collectors profited from Roman occupation. And yet these two men loved each other! And as Apostles they became pillars in the New Testament church. What about us? Is there any room for someone to approach politics a bit differently than you? Do you love the brotherhood?
Are you fearing God and honoring the emperor? Too many of us reverse those commands. If we’re honest, what scares us most is the wrong candidate being “emperor.” Sure, we honor God, but if we’re honest our fears are too often wrapped up in what happens at the ballot box. Peter wants us to be the opposite. Don’t fear who’s in the Oval Office. Honor him, sure. But don’t give either candidate too much credit. Only God is sovereign.
How do citizens of a heavenly nation live faithfully as temporary citizens on earth? By knowing you’re free.
[i] As translated by Travis Loeslie, “On the Freedom of a Christian,” Lutheran Reformation (blog), March 20, 2016, https://lutheranreformation.org/theology/on-the-freedom-of-a-christian/.