I love that Christ calls His children free. I love that He came to break chains and open cages. It is probably my favorite description of the children of God actually. I think that stems out of years of being trapped under guilt and shame. Of not feeling like I could ever get away from the oppression of sin. Grace is a big, hairy, wonderful concept that I still don’t have down. So, throughout those struggles I’ve clung to the word, “free.” I have put that word over my life like a banner. And that is a good thing. That’s a healthy thing.
However, God has drawn me in a number of ways to 1 Peter recently. I’m not really sure what’s up but He definitely wants me reading that book. Because it’s written as a letter (and it’s rather short) it works really well to read in its entirety. As you go along, Peter lays out a map for each individual’s life as well as the church’s. Let me tell you, I adore maps. I love plans and practical instructions. I’m all about, “what exactly can I do right now? Right this second?” For good or bad, my personality really likes immediate, applicable actions.
“Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God. Honor Everyone. Love the Brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor.” 1 Peter 2:16-17
I love it. It’s simple yet deep and packed full of knowledge.
Starting at the top. I mentioned freedom earlier because Peter kind of threw me for a loop. The first time I read verse 16 I did a double take. Freedom could be a bad thing? It made me re-inspect my love for that word. There can definitely be a temptation to think that because Jesus died and took on the punishment for my sins then I have complete freedom. As in, it doesn’t matter if I sin because Jesus has it covered. Our culture and my generation (and all you other whippersnappers) have grown up in a world where we punt responsibility. We won’t take it. Think about how people talk about mistakes. “Mistakes have been made.” “I’m sorry that you were hurt by my comment.” If you care to know, those verbs are passive. For whatever reason the subject is not the subject. It should be, “I have made mistakes.” But isn’t it easier when we don’t have to say, “I?” Or “I’m sorry for what I said. I’m sorry for hurting you.” That’s taking direct responsibility versus saying, “I’m sorry that you took offense at what I said. But I’m not sorry for what I said…” It’s so easy to avoid responsibility for our sins.
Freedom is a gift that can be misused. And we are so good at doing that as we live in a distorted, sinful world. Verse 16 is a great reminder that we have been given a good thing. A good thing that doesn’t set us up to do whatever we want but instead frees us from guilt and shame in order that we might live better, God-glorifying lives.
Next we move into something that feels different. The list at the end of those verses gives practical ways to live as servants of God. And it starts with honoring everyone and loving the brotherhood. We start with love. As Christians, we should be known for our respect for others. Christ teaches us again and again that every human being has immense value. No matter our differences we should be the first to love, accept, and honor those around us. This especially applies to people that we differ from whether they are outside the church or one of our brothers or sisters in Christ.
Christ hung out with sinners, prostitutes, corrupt tax collectors, and all kinds of other people the church looked down upon. He made no allowances for sin but still valued each person and showed kindness. What an amazing example He has set for us!
Next we are to fear God. This doesn’t really mean being afraid of God in a “He’s a scary monster,” kind of way. Rather, recognize the how immense God’s glory is and how He is sovereign. He is God. He has existed forever and is outside of time itself! Fearing God means respecting and praising Him for His perfection.
Then lastly, we are to “obey the emperor.” Now, not many of us live in countries with emperors. But we do have authorities in our lives. We are to obey whatever government we live under and honor their authority over us. That doesn’t seem so hard at first. But that means, if the speed limit is 40? We are to obey the government and go 40. The drinking age is 21? We should obey and wait to drink until that age. The law says it’s illegal to download songs off the Internet without paying? We should not be doing that.
It’s hard to obey when you don’t agree or a law seems unnecessary. But in obedience, we have the chance to set an amazing example. That discipline and respect for authority sets Christians apart from other people. That isn’t “normal.” What an opportunity to share Christ through those actions.
I hope God revealed something to you through these verses. Soak in the truth God has for you. He gives the free gift of freedom but in response, our love for Him should result in actions that honor Him. Loving others, fearing God, and obeying the authority in our lives isn’t always easy. It’s rarely easy really. But it opens up doors to glorify the Lord and share the gospel and that my dear friends is a beautiful thing!
I’d love to talk with you about any questions you may have or if you just need some prayer. Please shoot me an email. This is a safe place and I am here to love on y’all!