Third Sunday After Easter: How to Deal with Corrupt Politicians
Beginning in verse 11 of I Peter 2, Peter writes: "Beloved, I urge you as Strangers and Pilgrims to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul. Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.
Be subject for the Lord's sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme, or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good. For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people. 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.
Servants, be subject to your masters with all respect, not only to the good and gentle but also to the unjust. For this is a gracious thing, when, mindful of God, one endures sorrows while suffering unjustly.
For what credit is there if, when you sin and are harshly treated, you endure it with patience? But if when you do what is right and suffer for it you patiently endure it, this finds favor with God."
Now the key phrase in this section is found in verse 15. It is this, “For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people." The word “silence” is used often to speak of muzzling an animal, figuratively, of reducing an adversary to silence, as it were, taking the very accusation out of his mouth. Verse 15 also speaks of ignorance and foolish people. These are people who are willfully ignorant of God's truth, foolishly disobedient to God's Word, and they are criticizers or critics of Christians. They take a foolish position, they take an ignorant position and they attack the truth. And Peter says the way to silence them is not by what you say, but by doing right. The main point that you want to understand is this, the single greatest tool for evangelism is how you live, it is doing right. The single greatest tool for evangelism is doing right. That's how you silence the critics. To put it in the terms of verse 12, that is how you, "Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation." In other words, you not only silence their criticism, but you bring them to the point where they glorify God by what you do, not what you say. So I say it again, the foundation of all Christian witness is what you do, not what you say.
The single greatest tool then of our Christian testimony and of evangelism is doing right. It is how you live.
The people to whom Peter wrote the letters of 1 and 2 Peter were believers experiencing severe persecution under the reign and government of the Roman emperor Nero. Nero was a psycho and afflicted those believers with horrendous acts of evil. He threw women and children into the Coliseum for sport to be torn apart by lions. He impaled believers on stakes and burned them as human torches to light up his decadent evening parties. In fact, not long after Peter wrote his second letter, tradition states that Nero had him crucified upside down.
Martyrdom was not just a first-century problem, but is still happening today. According to one report, more than 200 million Christians in at least 60 countries are denied fundamental human rights solely because of there faith. Some estimates show that approximately 175,000 Christians have been martyred annually within only a few years, and if those trends continue, by 2025, an average of 210,000 Christians will be martyred annually.
In his first letter, Peter wasn't just writing to the Christians but to Christians under heavy persecution from Nero. They were under a very oppressive government that was taking their lives faith in Christ. And yet when Peter talks about getting rid of things, he isn't referring to Nero and his government but getting rid of stuff within each of us individually.
Now obviously we live in a society today not unlike that of Peter where people criticize Christianity as well. We have our critics, for sure. In fact, they are widespread, far-reaching, very vocal, and for the most part have captured the institutions of our society. The critics of Christianity are many. And the point of our greatest vulnerability and the point of their greatest accusation is what we do. It is the scandalous conduct of Christians that fuels the fires of critics. It is the purity and godliness and virtue and righteousness of Christians that silences the critics. And so when Peter writes to the Christians under heavy persecution from Nero, he does not talk about getting rid of Nero and his government but of getting rid of stuff within each of us individually.
While people are trying to get rid of politicians, We have forgotten to deal with ourselves.
If Peter were alive today and living under the authority of one of the oppressive countries today, he would say, “You want to know corruption? Try living under Nero!” here is what Peter said in the midst of his horrible and dangerous first-century political landscape:
"Therefore put away all malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander. Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation— if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good." (I Peter 2:1-3)
The first word of chapter 2 is the word therefore. Whenever we see “Therefore or Wherefore”, we need to ask, “What is it there for?” It should always make us go backward in Scriptures. If you look at I Peter, chapters 2,4 and 5, all begin with “therefore.” We can't read the first verse of these chapters without the context of what came before it. For 2:1 to make sense, we have to read 1:17-25. The person “putting away” here is a Christian, not a non Christian trying to become a Christian. Listen closely: You don't get rid of stuff to become a Christian. Once you become a Christian, you can't stay the same, as there must be growth. We don't get good and come to Jesus. We come to Jesus and He makes us good.
Peter is telling you and I to get rid of “malice and all deceit and hypocrisy and envy and all slander”- not in the government but in you and me.
We are on unbiblical ground when we want the politicians to get rid of slander, deceit and hypocrisy but never deal with it in ourselves.
The political climate today is not calling for impeachment but for introspection. Before we judge the leaders of our towns, cities, states, and governments, let us judge ourselves on these matters. That's how Peter was. Peter was harsher on himself then he was on Nero's government. Although later, in the epistle readings for today, Peter does say something about our response to rotten politicians:
Be subject for the Lord's sake to every human institution,whether it be to the emperor as supreme, or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good. For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people. 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.
Unbelievable! Did you just hear what Peter said about the corruption of Rome? Respect the government. Respect the authorities. Any corruption you see today can't even compare to the corruption Peter and the early church were living under. And these are Peter's challenging words to us: Respect them. He is sterner and stricter on his own spirit than he is on a rogue emperor. It's almost as if Peter is saying, “If there is a swamp to be drained, it starts with me and it's in me.”