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God is with you - Part 15

1 Peter 2v12-17

Christian Ethics, Part 1

23rd June 2017

1 Peter 2v12-14
Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us. Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every authority instituted among men whether to the king, 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.

Being a Christian is utterly different from being a non-Christian. In particular, you get a completely different set of ethics. For example, the Bible tells us, Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every authority. You won't hear that on the bus or in the pub very often. And their government was the Roman Empire! You think our government is bad? But Peter told them to submit to every authority, for the Lord's sake.

Submission is a huge Christian virtue, but the world tells you it's a terrible idea. "What about asserting your rights? What about standing up for yourself? What about me? No-one tells me what to do." But Christians say, "Anybody can tell me what to do. If you make me walk one mile, I'll walk two." That's what Jesus taught us (Matthew 5v41).

We should submit to the king (or emperor) as the supreme authority, and to governors. If you read your history, you'll know that Roman governors stole and extorted a huge amount of property. They were hugely corrupt people, but they were the authority, so Peter instructed the Christians to submit to them. We have imbibed the worldly spirit of criticising politicians. I'm not saying they don't deserve it, but that's not what Christians are for:

1 Peter 2v15
For it is God’s will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish men.

Some people will say awful things about church, about us, and about Jesus. And you won't argue them out of it. You can't sit them down and prove to seven places of decimals that your theology is right and their world view is wrong. All we can do is live such good lives that they think, "What a holy man, what a gentle man, what a good man, what a generous man. He must have something. Anything that makes him this nice a bloke can't be all bad." And for many people, that's the start of their journey to Christ. They find that the Christians they meet are the nicest people they know.

And sometimes, they meet a horrible Christian, and it turns them off for years, so this stuff is important.

As I say from time to time, when you're in Sainsbury's you should be the nicest person the checkout girl meets all day. How are people going to find Jesus without us? And are they going to listen to what we have to say if they don't respect our lifestyle, if they can't see our kindness and our peace, our goodness and our joy. Sometimes, you're then only one smiling in the entire queue, the only one not shoving in the rush hour.

1 Peter 2v16
Live as free men, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as servants of God.

Christian freedom is not freedom to do what you want; it's freedom to do what Jesus wants. It's freedom from sin, it's not freedom from restraint. It's freedom for love, joy, peace, patience , kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.

It was 44 years ago that I came to Christ, but I can still remember not being free to be nice, generous or peaceful. I didn't know what peace was until I met Jesus.

You're free! You've been set from sin, set free from death, set free from condemnation. You've been set free from negative self-image, although some of us find it difficult to shrug it off. You're free to live with Jesus for ever and ever.

And the last thing we should be doing is using our freedom an excuse for carnal self-indulgence. We should no longer be judgemental, or grumpy, or unkind, or selfish or lazy. We belong to Jesus now. It's too important that we live godly lives, not just for our own sake, but for the lost's sake. How will they find Jesus without us? We must live as servants of God.

1 Peter 2v17
Show proper respect to everyone: Love the brotherhood of believers, fear God, honour the king.

Perhaps a better translation is "honour everyone" - everyone. Who is the politician that most irritates you. Honour him or her. Who's the neighbour that keeps you up at night. Honour him. Who's the boss that drives you bonkers. Honour him. Love your neighbour as yourself. Jesus said "love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you" (Matthew 5v44).

We are to love the brotherhood of believers, giving our fellow Christians not merely honour, but profound, heartfelt love and sacrifice.

We should Fear God, giving Him the reverence He deserves as King of Kings, Creator of the universe and your eternal Saviour.

And we'll called to honour the king [or emperor], or the prime minister, or the pastor, or whoever it is than has more authority over you than you're comfortable with - honour them, although they don't deserve it. We of all people don't want people to get what they deserve. If I got what I deserved, I'd be condemned to hell. And so would you. So let's treat people with a lot more honour than they deserve, for Christ's sake.

The next part of Peter's first letter talks about slavery. You and I find slavery abhorrent, but Peter tells slaves to honour their masters, because slave owners are people, too, and we are to honour everyone.

Christian ethics are utterly different from worldly ethics. How conformed to this world do you want to be? How conformed to Christ do you want to be? In 1 Peter 2v23, Peter writes, "When they hurled their insults at him [Jesus Christ], he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly [to God]." And He is our example.