“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” (1 Pet. 2:13-17).
A passage from 1 Peter about obeying authorities … what might this have to do with Advent? Martin Luther helped me make the connection.
First of all, doesn’t politics drive you crazy? I have the privilege of teaching college-level history courses that trace the development of civilizations over time. Obviously, there have been no perfect societies. Politics, the simple act of people trying to govern themselves, never seems to end well. So, as we watch our contemporary government agencies struggle to find consensus, it’s really nothing new – it’s just another attempt by the godless to bring peace to a fallen world.
Governments attempt to control people’s behavior. Luther points to the fact that Christians are motivated not by political power, but by love from, and to, God. “We are not bound to obey the sovereign power for its own sake, [Peter] says, but for God’s sake … For what I do for God’s sake, I must freely do as an act of service.” This is our purest motivation, when we are walking in the Spirit and living righteously, and provides us with plenty of accountability.
The unbelieving world around us is devoid of either the conviction or the power to live godly lives. And, “since we are not all believers, but the majority unbelievers, he has enacted and ordained so as to save the world from anarchy that the civil power should bear the sword and restrain the wicked.” And again, “Christians yield themselves to the control of God’s Word; they have no need of civil government for their own sake; but the unchristian portion require another government, even the civil sword.”
Do you see now the Advent theme? When Jesus returns, sin and unbelief will be stamped out forever. Jesus will reign, and our motivation will be pure. In short, we won’t need civil government anymore! Every knee, including the knees of the rulers of this world, will not only bow to the one true King of kings, but will find themselves out of a job! As the old spiritual states, “I’m gonna lay down my burden, down by the riverside – ain’t gonna study war no more!”
I don’t know about you, the prospect of politics being “over” just took my Advent longing up a notch!
E * O
(not sure how many of you will get that last picture reference…)