Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human authority: whether to the emperor, as the supreme authority, or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right. For it is God’s will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish people. Live as free people, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as God’s slaves. Show proper respect to everyone, love the family of believers, fear God, honor the emperor.
1 Peter 2:13-17
You will recall that Peter has told us in general terms that we need to behave in a manner that is right and proper, as citizens of heaven and not of this world. His particular concern in verse 12 is that we must live good lives among the pagans, even though they will accuse us of all sorts of things, so that the love and light of Christ will save some of them. Now, starting with verse 13 Peter gets more specific, first talking about our relations with government officials, then with Masters, and then within our own homes.
First off, we are to show proper respect to the rulers of human government. I always told my students, that this is where the Bible commands that they obey the speed limit, and do you know what they always did? They laughed, thinking that I was joking! You are probably laughing as you read this… Brothers and sisters in Christ, if we can’t do the little things, how can we do the big things? Oh yes, put a “Jesus” sticker on your car and drive recklessly… great, just great. We are to obey the laws, and show proper respect to our officials, even when they aren’t as respectable as they should be. Why?
For it is God’s will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish people. (v. 15)
If we behave badly, it will reflect badly on the Gospel. What goes through your mind when you read a news story about a foreign diplomat who breaks the law and gets away with it because they have diplomatic immunity? Probably something not very close to good feelings, shall we say maybe something negative? How does it appear to the unbeliever when you tell them about Jesus and then misbehave? Does that unbeliever want to hear more from you about righteousness? Not likely, you’ve lost your credibility, and so have all other believers.
Live as free people, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as God’s slaves. (v. 16)
This is a contrast between free people and slaves. Keep in mind that the Roman Empire was a slave economy, and a significant percentage of believers were slaves. Peter is reminding them and us as well, that we are God’s servants (slaves) and our freedom in Christ must never be used to enable evil conduct on our parts. This is followed by Peter’s imperative in verse 17:
Show proper respect to everyone, love the family of believers, fear God, honor the emperor.
As Peter has set this up quite nicely, I have little else to say here… Oh, except that you should obey the speed limit!