I’m tired. I was away for three days at a pastor’s conference. I came back Wednesday night at 1:30am. I got up and went right to work again the next day from 8a-8:45pm. So…I was super excited to get home Thursday evening.
I figured I’d get home and relax on the couch.
I’d turn an episode of Arrow.
I’d have some delicious hot food waiting for me to eat.
But when I got home…that wasn’t there.
No room on the couch.
No HGTV on the TV.
No food…could I go out and get some?
In other words –
Julianna felt the same way I did.
She was tired.
She wanted to relax.
She was hoping I could help her relax as I was hoping she could help me.
What happens next is something that I imagine goes down in homes across America.
We both get a bit annoyed.
Today we will apply a Biblical teaching to teach us the importance of putting others first in our households…even when our own selfishness wants us to make others put ourselves first. Before we examine Scripture, join me in prayer: O Lord, strengthen us by the truth; your Word is the truth. Open our eyes to see what you want us to see; open our ears to hear what you want us to hear; open our hearts to believe what you would have us believe. Amen.
1. Who’s Number One?
The lesson for this morning comes from the book of Ephesians 5. Ephesians is a letter written by Pastor Paul to the Christians that were living in Ephesus. That’s important. This is a letter written to Christians that means it is a letter written to people who knew about Jesus’ undeserved love, understood his selfless sacrifice on the cross, and embraced his ‘others first’ teachings. They must have been putting it into practice, because the church has grown since Paul started it.
They must have been selflessly sharing Jesus’ message of grace in the community.
They must have been selflessly sharing Jesus’ love in the work place.
They must have been selflessly sharing their belongings in their church family.
And that’s a good thing.
But if you read the letter to the Ephesians, there’s a change in tone midway through. From the exciting reminders of God’s grace in the beginning of the letter to succinct and direct commands in chapter 5. He tells them to stop living like the world and stop living like people who love God.
Because while they were doing a good job of living for Jesus in church on Sunday, they were forgetting about being selfless in one key area of life.
Ephesians 5 deals almost exclusively with direction and guidance for Christians in their household and with their family. There are words about lying. Words about sexuality faithfulness. Words for husbands and wives, moms, dads, sons and daughters.
But in all of the direction, it finds its heart in 5:21. Almost like it’s the center of the Christian family and the beating heart of the Christian household.
Is it love? Not this time.
Kind words? No.
Good food? Not quite.
Ready for it.
Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.
Does that seem like a strange word to use here? Submit? In the English language, it is a term that’s used (1) in wrestling. “I just put you in the Figure Four leglock. Submit!” or (2) with dogs. “You need to maintain status of alpha dog and make that dog submit,” or (3) in regards to the angry rule of a dictator: “Submit to me or else.”
Is that the kind of submit we are talking about here?
Not at all.
This part of the Bible was originally written in Greek. In the Greek language, there are three types of voices that you can place any verb into.
First, there’s the Active Voice. It means that the subject is doing the action. (“I eat the Doritos.”)
Second, there’s the Passive Voice. It means that the subject is being acted upon. (“The Doritos are eaten by me.”)
Finally, there’s something in Greek called the Middle Voice. It means that the subject is acting upon itself. (“The Doritos are making themselves delicious.”)
It’s that middle voice that is being used in Ephesians 5. It means “submit yourself.” You do the action and you place yourself below another. You place your desires, needs and wants below theirs.
It means the word submit has three important parts to it that we need to remember:
1. It’s Unforced
NOTE: It does not say “Make others submit to you,” or “force others to submit to you.”
It’s amazing how we forget that in our families.
“I wanted to watch the football game. How dare you put on The Voice! Change the channel and submit or I’m gonna complain loudly so you can’t hear.”
“I want to go to McDonalds. How dare you suggest Taco Bell! Change the direction of this car and submit or I will spill the Big Mac all over the interior.”
“I want to spend our money on this; you want to spend money on that. Submit to me or I will scream and pout and call you names and force you to submit to me.”
That’s not how God wants submission to work.
He doesn’t tell us to force others to submit to us.
2. It's Willing
Which is the exact opposite of being forced. This word is calling us to put our own desires, needs and wants underneath the desires, needs and wants of our families….and to do so willingly.
3. It’s Unearned
Again. Note it does not say:
“Submit yourself…as long as they’ve done their share of cleaning up the bathroom.”
“Submit yourself…as long as they have cleaned up all of their LEGOS.”
“Submit yourself…as long as your spouse is looking pretty hot.”
It says submit.
Submit yourself when they are a jerk.
Submit yourself when they are rude.
Submit yourself when they aren’t even nice.
By the way – this is what we say in marriage. “I promise to be faithful to you…in sickness and in health, for better or worse, in rich and poor.” No matter the situation I promise to put your wants and needs before mine.
This is hard.
So very hard.
So very hard for selfish humans to be selfless.
How do we do it?
Submit yourself out of reverence for Christ.
At Jesus’ time, everybody wore sandals. They weren’t such things as closed-toed shoes like we have today. Everybody wore sandals and out in the dusty desert that mean that their feet became filthy.
Plus, it was hot! That means the leather was constantly rubbing against the flesh of their feet at temperatures upwards of 100 degrees Fahrenheit. Leather and sweat? It doesn’t smell very pleasant.
Not to mention – the majority speedy travel at the time was by horse or donkey or oxen. And guess what? Those animals needed to stop and do what animals sometimes need to stop and do…in the middle of the road. There wasn’t a very good street sweeper system. People just kind of left it…and walked over it…and got it on their feet.
Dirty toe nails.
So…when you enter a home, you want to clean up a bit. It was common practice for a servant to stand at the door with a bowl of water and a rag – ready to wash.
But one evening, the disciples gather for a party. They gather to into a home.
They enter through the door and there is not a servant.
And each disciple walks in.
And each disciple notices the bowl of water by the door.
And each disciple notices the lack of a servant.
And each disciple thinks; “I’m not gonna wash anybody’s feet. Because if I do, suddenly I’m that guy. The feet washing guy.”
And they all sit down. And they try to ignore the stench. And they look disapprovingly at one another: “You should have done this.”
He enters with a towel around his waist and a bowl of water in his hands.
And he begins…washing their feet.
He submits himself to their needs.
The Lord of heaven gets on the dirty ground.
The God to whom all bow – gets on his knees to help his friends.
The Holy One himself in whom nothing is unclean – reaches down and rubs the dirty excrement from between the disciples’ toes.
He submits himself to even their most primal and basic needs.
And it’s not even the most incredible example of Jesus submitting for us.
Because the whole reason Jesus was on earth was for his disciples.
The whole reasons Jesus was on earth was for you.
He submitted himself willingly to the painful death of the cross in order to save himself.
His miracles proved that he wasn’t being forced – he could have sent thousands of angels to save himself at any time.
And he did this when we didn’t deserve it.
When all he saw was sin.
When all he saw was people being awful to one another.
When all he saw was us being awful to him.
But Jesus submitted himself to our needs.
He submitted himself to death in order to serve our greatest need of all.
Now He, who gave his entire life to us, calls us to submit to one another. For His sake.
2. Godly Examples of this in Action
When everyone in the family puts this submission principle into practice, it leads to a pleasant family life. Ephesians notes this by highlighting two particular family relationships that tend to put people at odds. Take a look:
1. Husband and wife.
The reality is that men and women are different. In fact, the Bible teaches right here something called the roles of husband and wife in marriage. To be honest – it makes a lot of sense.
Because what happens if you have two head chefs at a restaurant? One wants to serve Italian and the other wants to serve sushi. The result? They both want to lead. They argue and fight. They end up with a dish called “Spaghetti and Sushi Meatballs.” And…no one wins.
To avoid that, God has husband wife assumed different roles in a marriage. The husband is the leader and the wife is the helper. One is not better than the other. They are completely the same in God’s eyes. They simply have different roles in the marriage.
This means they share the same guiding principle: Submit yourselves out of reverence for Christ with slightly different applications.
For wives it says this: Submit yourself to your husband for the husband is the head (or leader) of the wife as Christ is the head of the church. This is interesting because we have the exact same word for “submit” simply applied in a different scenario. The same things we said about submit earlier, we would say about submit now.
Submission is unforced. (meaning husbands don’t point to this passage and shout: “See! Submit. I’m in charge.”) No. Just…No.
Submission is unearned. (Meaning you are conceding the leadership to your husband even when he’s doing a terrible job of it.)
Submission is willing. (Meaning this is something you do. Out of love. Out of trust.)
Again…hard. It’s trusting that the man you marry will lead with your very best in mind.
Which, oddly enough, is exactly how God tells husbands to lead.
And then some.
Husbands, love your wives just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.
Guys. Do you see it? God tells you not just to submit your desires to your wife’s needs.
Not just your daily activities.
Not just your wallet.
Not just the TV remote (which we aren’t even that good at giving up).
But your life.
Just like Christ gave up his life for us – we are willing to give up our lives for our wives.
That’s a huge responsibility. But it’s also a responsibility motivated by Jesus. He gave up his life for us. He died for us. We already have everything we need for eternal life!
Why not serve our wives with all of our lives?
So now think about the two. When this is practiced the way Jesus says it is to be practiced, this relationship is beautiful.
The wife submits herself to her husband’s leadership.
The husband submits his leadership to his wife’s needs.
2. Parent and child.
A second example is the relationship between parents and child. Again, when done well it’s mutually beneficial.
First Paul writes, “Children obey your parents for this pleases the LORD.” (6:1) He writes this reminder because kids (did you know this?) don’t always listen. And not listening to your mom and dad is hurtful.
I remember my mother once made a peach cobbler dish. She spent hours making and baking and kneading the dough. She did it because she loved us. Then, when it was time to eat it – I put a dollop of Cool Whip on. She said, “That’s enough.” I put another dollop on. She said, “No more.” I put my spoon in the Cool whip and she said, “If you add one more then you’ll have to leave the table.”
I had to leave the table.
How rude. Not listening to my mom and the nice things she was trying to do for me. I put my own desires first rather than hers. Jesus says reverse that.
Because your parents will be putting YOU first.
“Father’s, train up your children in the instruction of the Lord.” I love that reminder of how we are to train – “in instruction of the Lord.” It’s not like we train kids to be our slaves – like Santa Claus and his elves. Nor do we need to worry so much about training them to be the next Lebron James or Arianna Grande.
Train in the Lord.
Train in the message of Jesus.
Train in the faith that leads to heaven.
And we submit ourselves to that need.
When tired, we bring them to church anyways.
When watching the game, we get up from the couch and discipline.
When shopping on Facebook marketplace, we put down the phone to go share a devotion with them.
When this relationship is done the way God says it should, again – it works wonderfully.
Be imitators of God’s love. (5:1)
Love – like God.
Submit – like God.
Obey – like Jesus.
Train – like the Father.
Genesis 1 paints a really a beautiful picture doesn’t it?
A man, newly formed, searches throughout all of creation for the perfect partner. But his work is in vain. He realizes that he doesn’t have the perfect partner. He has no one to share his life with.
Enter God. He causes the man to fall into a deep sleep. He removes one of the man’s ribs. He uses that rib to create the perfect partner. From man he created "out of man” or, as English speakers say, “Woman.”
When the man awakes, he is astonished. Mystified. He speaks her a love poem, “This is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh!” She isn’t just another person. She isn’t just my partner. She is me. She and I are one. He holds her in his arms. She looks up at him and beams. She is pleased to call this wonderful man her leader.
Fast forward a thousands of years.
Again a man is sleeping. But it’s not because of God. It’s because of a few too many Busch Lights. He opens his eyes to watch the TV commercials on the ball game – if only his wife were more like those cheerleaders!
She’s in the other room. Literally on the phone complaining about the big oaf next door. What a fool! Why did she marry? He’s lazy, ignorant, and unattractive. She doesn’t respect him AND don’t worry, she lets him know every chance that she gets.
Suddenly, the man speaks. It’s poetic…
“Honey dear, can you get me another beer?!”
So what happened? Why the difference? How come modern marriages have fallen so far apart from the perfect union that God intended it?
The answer, or course, is sin.
Today God’s Word from 1 Peter 3 reminds us what God’s plan for marriage is. It speaks to wives about what Women of God will bring to a marriage and to husbands about what Men of God will bring to a marriage.
Scripture talks to women first in 1 Peter 3:1, “Wives, in the same way submit to your husbands.”
Immediately you see the “what” of what God calls you to do. It’s that word -- submit. It’s the same word that God used in our past two sermons on Chapter 21 Peter. Submit to the Government. Submit to your employers. Now wives are to submit to their husbands.
Remember what submit means. It deals with respect and honor. But with wives, it goes a bit farther. It is unforced. It’s not the husband’s job to make his wife submit. (And men, this is not talking to you!) The wife submits out of love.
It’s like the car turning left onto Falls of Neuse. It waits, out of love, for the pedestrian crossing the walk. Concession is necessary for things to work. Even if the car is carrying a vital organ to take up to Wake Med North and the pedestrian is a bum – concession happens. Out of love, unforced, and completely removed from one person being more important than another.
Submission then speaks of a loving, unforced concession of the leadership position to the husband.
Now, dear wives, maybe to a godly man that sounds fine. The logic is simple: He loves Jesus. He loves you. He should love you with a Jesus-like love!
But what if he is a jerk? What if he is rude? What if you are married to an unbeliever who doesn’t have your best spiritual interests in mind? Do you have to submit then?
God’s Word says this, “Wives, in the same way be submissive to your husbands so that, if any of them do not believe the word, they may be won over without words by the behavior of their wives, when they see the purity and reverence of your lives.”
Now certainly God’s Word doesn’t not want us to follow husbands into unbelief (or any sin). Yet it is precisely because of a wife’s faith in Christ that God wants you to submit even to an unbelieving husband. Because it is by this godly submission that the husband will notice a direct contrast to the unbelieving way of the world.
He will see it is better. He will say, “What’s the difference between my wife and my buddy’s wives? Why is she kinder? Why is she gentler? Could it be the Christian thing? Maybe I should learn more about this Jesus!”
It is clear. God’s Word tells wives to submit to their husbands.
Now when you think of it in theory. This should be easy, right? There’s an intimate relationship between husband and wife. You chose him as your husband. You love him. It should be way easier to submit to him than the government or your boss.
But how good are you at this submission thing really? Here’s a little test to see if you struggle with respecting your husband as your leader:
Women if you struggle with submission repent and turn to the one who submitted to your eternal, spiritual needs. Jesus, who was Master of the Universe, yet he submitted himself to a life on this earth. Then he submitted himself to your sins of selfishness, pride, and disrespect for your husband. He let hem overtake him and he submitted to death.
In doing so, He saved you. In Christ, you are forgiven. In Christ’s forgiveness for you sinful thoughts and attitudes as a wife, you are a WOMAN of GOD.
Be that woman of God. Verse 3 explains more: 3 Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as braided hair and the wearing of gold jewelry and fine clothes. 4 Instead, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight.
About a week ago Beyonce performed at the VMAs. I didn’t see it, but I did read a review. Apparently there were stripper poles, backup dancers wearing lingerie, and songs about doing things in the back of cars with boys. Then, near the end of our performance a big LED sign lit up behind her displaying what was apparently her message – “FEMINISM.”
Really? Sexy? Lewd? That’s feminism? Bowing to society’s expectations and self consciously trying to allure men to do what you want by playing on their physical attractions? That’s power?
Do not be deceived. Scripture says to worry less about how you look and more about what’s in your heart. Instead of striving to be like Beyonce; strive to embody real, Biblical feminism. Verse 5 says this, “This is the way the holy women of the past who put their hope in God used to make themselves beautiful. They were submissive to their own husbands, 6 like Sarah, who obeyed Abraham and called him her master. You are her daughters if you do what is right and do not give way to fear.”
How’s that for a romantic term? Not “Cutie.” Not “babe,” Not even “Love muffin.” But “Master.”
But before you throw her under the bus as “Ancient” and “old fashioned,” consider what this Old Testament patriarchess meant with such an endearing name: “Abraham, I trust you. I trust God. I’m going to ignore my pride and I’m going to ignore my selfishness and I’m going to let you be my leader.”
Wow. That’s real feminism. She defined herself not by her looks, not by her role in marriage, but by God’s love for her.
God’s Word shifts its attention to the men in the family next. Look at verse 7, “Husbands, in the same way be considerate as you live with your wives, and treat them with respect as the weaker partner and as heirs with you of the gracious gift of life, so that nothing will hinder your prayers."
The directive is simple. It’s clear: Be considerate about her. Think for her. Act for her. Love her.
Yes, you see that word about the weaker partner. The simplest and easiest way to interpret this is physically. Guys are generally strong and have bigger muscles.
Makes sense, doesn’t it? God gave the leaders the greater physical strength NOT so they can show off. Not so that they can hold it against their wives, but so that they could honor, cherish, protect, and provide for them! Ephesians 5 adds to it, “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.”
In other words, God’s perfect plan for marriage involves a woman’s unforced, loving submission, but it also involves a husband loving leadership that submits itself to his wife’s needs.
A man is to love his wife more than his life!
But we aren’t all that good at this are we gentlemen? Men too have a problem with selfishness. We too have a problem with pride. We too have sinful attitudes that have infected the way we treat our wives.
Sometimes we don’t even love our wives more than the football game on TV.
Think if you don’t showcase these same sinful attitudes:
Men, if you do these things and have this attitude you are wrong. You are not leading your wife. You are heeding and impeding her.
Thank God Jesus wasn’t selfish. Thank God Christ didn’t get to the end of his work, to the end of his perfectly lived, perfectly obedient life and say, “Well, I’ve worked hard. I know the next part is for me to die and substitute myself to save these people – the church, but I’m not gonna. I’ve worked too hard. They’ve done nothing. It’s their sins they are in trouble for, so they can take care of it themselves.”
Instead, Christ gave up his life. He led us all the way to eternal life. Even when it means giving up his life, Christ did it because he was the perfect leader – completely submissive to his people’s needs. GOD OUR SAVIOR did what it took lead MEN to God. Now he asks you to be MEN OF GOD who do what it takes to bring your wives to God!
Be those men of God!
Do you have any collectibles at home? Maybe it’s an autographed baseball. Maybe it’s a sports card. Maybe it’s a hotrod car. Maybe it’s a PEZ dispenser. (Some collections are more manly than others.)
I’ll be you treat that collection with care. You got a case for your sports collections. A pedestal for the baseball. A full wax treatment everytime you head into the garage for your car.
Love your wives in the same way. That’s what MEN OF GOD do. They cherish their wives dearly. Put their needs before yours. Treat them like that autographed baseball that you never treat harshly and take care of them nicely. They treat their wives. Their buy their wives gifts. They give their wives hugs. They do the laundry so their wives can rest. They take them aside and whisper, “I love you!” They give everything to take care of this precious gift God has given them. The one with whom they share everything.
Men of God love your wife more than your life! Talk about romantic. That can only come from a man of God!
I want you to focus back on a phrase in verse 7. “Heirs together” Not HEIRS APART. Not heirs of SEPARATE THINGS. Heirs together.
Men and women are different. But we aren’t different to oppose each other. And, if you are married, you and your husband are different, but you aren’t different to oppose each other. You are to complement each other. To encourage each other. To walk hand and hand together till you reach eternal life.
You know – perfection. Like the Garden of Eden. United with each other. United with God.
It’s a beautiful picture again. Amen.
Angry protests. Tens of arrests. Molotov cocktails. Smoke bombs. Tear gas. Riot Gear.
Nope, we’re not talking about gang violence. We’re talking about people desiring political change. And I’m not just talking about ISIS, Ukraine, or parts of Gaza. But even the heartland of America – Ferguson, MO has turned to violence to get answers.
Is this the way to deal with political problems? Is this the way to get answers from the government?
If it is, don’t you think we Christians should get to marching? Certainly you could make the case that government is turning against Christian values. There is a fear out there that this is not as Christian a nation as it used to be and it’s just plain harder to be a Christian than it used to be.
So should we join the trend? Do we need to make up degrading signs and march around the city? Shall we mix up some Molotov cocktails to throw at the limousines of government workers who vote against Christian values? Maybe we should break church early and go load up on assault rifles, take a Humvee to D.C. and attack the White House in the name of God?
Before we start a rebellion, let’s check to see what our leader wants us to do. When it comes to the government, you’ll find some of his marching orders in 1 Peter 2:13. Read it with me what the LORD inspired the apostle Peter to write, “Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human authority.”
1. What To Do.
Look at verse 13 again. It says, “Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human authority.” We see that word “submit” and immediately think that there must be some kind of mistake. It should probably read “Sub…merge yourself in armor so that you can quickly attack the government,” or, “Sub…stitute your own ideas when you don’t like the ideas that the government has.” The Holy Spirit must have made a mistake.
Not so much. The Holy Spirit is God. He’s perfect. There is no mistake here.
Besides, this is not the only time submission to the government is listed in the Bible. It is repeated in Romans 13 “Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities.” It is a theme showcased by Daniel as he respectfully refused to pray to the King Darius. It is a theme lived out by Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego as they respectfully refused to bow down to a statue of the King of Babylon It is a theme modeled by Jesus himself as he dealt with Pilate. It is a theme of peace and respectful disagreement.
Peter repeats this theme and makes it more specific.
He says, first, to submit to the emperor or to those who rule. At the time Peter wrote this he was referring to the Roman emperor. An emperor who was non Christian. An emperor, who soon, would hate Christians and violently put them into jail.
What about us? We don’t have a king or an emperor. We have a president, a governor, and congress. You know…the people that our society and media encourage us not to submit to.
Those are the ones God encourages us to submit to.
Second, it says submit to those who punish. For first century Christians, this meant the governor. Think Pontius Pilate the guy in charge of crucifying Jesus. For us, it refers to police officers, the military, even judges. From the comical Judge Judy to the royal Supreme Court Justices.
Finally, it says submit to those who commend or praise those who do right. Think of the DMV who rewards you by not imposing fines on you if you keep the speed limit or the IRS who rewards you with tax breaks for installing eco friendly lighting throughout your home.
Submit to any and every authority on earth!
Notice that it doesn’t say, “Submit to every republican authority,” nor does it say, “submit to every democratic authority,” nor does it say, “submit to every authority that you agree with.” There is no difference to God. Authority is there because God placed it there.
But what if they do really, awful, anti-Christian things? What if they bad mouth God? What if they are unbelievers? …What if I don’t like them!
Think about this: If you have a boss that you like who is going on vacation and while he’s gone he puts someone else in charge. If you don’t like them, you might not listen to them. When your boss returns and asks why, you might say, “I didn’t like him being in charge. He was a bad choice.”
Who are you really complaining about? The guy in charge or the guy who put the guy in charge?
When we complain against the government, who are you really complaining about? The guy in charge or the guy who put the guy in charge?
Listen again to what Peter wrote: “Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human authority.” Not “Because I agree with them,” Not “Because they speak well.” Not “Because they hold my political perspective.” Submit to them because of God!
But shouldn’t the government have to submit to God?
Yes. Of course. They are to govern justly, fairly, and right in God’s eyes. If they don’t, they’ll have to answer to God.
But this section isn’t talking to the government. It’s talking to you. Don’t try to make it about the government. God’s Word today says, “Submit to the government out of reverence for God because God placed them in charge and he wants you to submit to them.”
When you think about it that way, it changes things. Because while a particular government official might not care much about you personally and your issues, God does. In fact, he cared so much about the biggest and deepest issue that you have – the issue of sin – that He came down to earth in order to save you from that sin. He personally –as the Almighty King above—walked into the fire of the problem. He took on sin and he defeated it for us with his death on the cross.
Talk about love!
By the way, He didn’t die for you to abandon you and stop loving you. Instead, He still cares for you – even through His choice of government. All He asks is that you trust Him.
2. But Why Do It this Way?
You might be asking, “OK, fine that’s what God wants. He wants me to submit to the government. But why? Why would God want us to do that? How can we have a Christian society if we don’t hostilely take over the things that aren’t Christian and make them Christian! Crusades style!”
Listen to God’s reasoning. In verse 14 it says, “It is God’s will that…you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish people.” Because the truth is that there are a lot of unChristian views of the world. Both the Republican and the Democratic party have been fused with sinful ideas and attitudes.
God’s goal is to silence those. It is to turn off mouths, turn on minds, and open hearts to hear the message of Jesus. 1 Timothy tells us, “God our Savior wants all humans to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” That includes political parties, government officials, even that guy at work who thinks differently than you on political issues!
But listen to how God accomplishes silencing these mouths. He says, “by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish people.”
Unfortunately, that’s not how Christians usually read this verse. I fear that instead of trying to silence others with our actions, we usually to silence them with louder foolish talk.
That doesn’t work.
Sometimes the preschoolers get to talking at lunch. They get to talking and making funny noises that are so loud they totally forget to eat lunch. So – what I tried once was to make louder and sillier noises! I thought it would shock them into being quiet and eating their food.
That was probably one of my worst ideas of all time.
Why? It wasn’t quieter – it was louder. My voice added to the noise and they simply raised their voices in order to be heard!
Here then is the truth: Louder foolish talk doesn’t silence foolish talk. It just makes more noise. Think about how that works in America today. We think:
But here’s the scariest part. The devil loves angry words – especially when they come from Christians. He uses them to cloud an unbeliever's judgment. He uses angry words to say, “That Christian is a jerk and so is their Christ. What would I want to do with their Jesus?” He uses these words to harden an unbeliever's heart.
He uses you to harden an unbeliever’s heart.
Instead, deal differently with people. Respond to hateful political talk with loving actions. “It is God’s will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish people.”
Think of Jesus. The Pharisees and teachers of the Law bring Jesus to Pilate. They accuse him of being a rebel and inciter of hatred. They tell Pilate that Jesus is a danger to the Roman empire. They tell Pilate Jesus is a danger to his job. They tell Pilate that Jesus needs to die.
But Jesus didn’t throw the Pharisees under the bus. He didn’t call them names. He didn’t attack Pilate for being a pansy who didn’t stand up to the angry crowd of his citizens.
He remained silent. He remained gentle. He spoke patiently and lovingly to Pilate. He walked to his own death.
Why? Because Jesus always had his goal right. His goal was dealing with sin. His goal was saving you from your sin. His goal was winning for you eternal salvation at all costs – even if it cost Him a chance at political power! (Something that was never really on his mind in the first place.)
The point? Make your minds like Jesus’ mind. Make the salvation of others the most important part of your conversations – not Christian political power – but Christ’s power. Not a kingdom on earth – but the kingdom of heaven. Not Jesus’ reign in America – but Jesus’ reign in your neighbor’s heart.
Then, imitate Jesus. And perhaps your neighbor will begin to think, “You know, I used to think Christians are a bunch of judgmental, bigoted jerks. But…maybe Christians aren’t so bad. I like how kindly and nicely they have spoken to me about their differing opinions on politics. I’d like to hear more.”
Live lives of love. Silence foolish talk. Share Jesus.
3. How Do we Do it This Way
This is all easier said than done. The normal human reaction to vengeful words is to speak vengeful words back. How can sinful human people like us ever be expected to overcome our sinful attitudes and respond with graciousness?
Listen to God’s reminder: “Live as free people.” (v16)
Focus on that word ‘free.’ Remember this was written to Christians living under the Roman Empire. They weren’t free. So that word “free” isn’t referring to being in political freedom of democracy like we Americans are today.
What does it refer to?
Jesus said this at the start of his ministry, “The Spirit of the Lord is on me because he has anointed me to proclaim…freedom for the prisoners.” (Luke 4:18) But Jesus spoke to more than just prisoners. He spoke to merchants, market workers, farmers, fishermen, even church workers.
That’s because Jesus wasn’t proclaiming political freedom. He was proclaiming spiritual freedom. This is why he went from human to human proclaiming, “Your sins are forgiven. You are free from your sins.”
This is the same freedom Jesus speaks to you hear today. “Believe in me. Trust in what I’ve done. I have freed you from your sins. I died as a ransom that you would be released from your sins, from their eternal consequences, and from guilt…forever! Sin no longer rules you, I do!"
Think about it. Without Jesus, sin would rule over us. When people disagreed with us politically, sin would tell us to call them names. When the government upset us, sin would tell us to complain. When the president did something we didn’t like, sin would tell us to curse Him!
But Jesus freed you from that! Sin no longer rules over you. You are free! And how you use that freedom is of the utmost importance to God. Verse 12 says, “Do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; but live as God’s servants.”
If you were a slave under a tyrannical empire, waiting in solitude, gloom, and pestilence to be set free for years, then you are set free as an opposing army breaks the power of the empire. Would it make any sense…any sense at all to say, “I’m free! So I’m going to find that tyrannical leader and ask him, if he can mistreat me and I can be his slave again!”
Of course not! Why then would you return to sin and evil after having been set free from it!?
Instead, remember who rules you. It isn’t sin. It’s Jesus, your Lord of love.
This means you don’t have to listen to your sinful desires. They aren’t in control of you.
Peter concludes with a final imperative for the People of God. In verse 13 he writes, “Show proper respect to everyone, love the family of believers, fear God, honor the emperor.”
Think about what Peter is saying as he lists ways of honoring God. Honoring Government = Honoring God.
But it isn’t as if the Spirit isn’t calling us to battle. He is. Just with different weapons: the Sword of the Spirit. The helmet of salvation. The love of Jesus.
Stage a rebellion then. In America – in Raleigh – start a rebellion with God’s Word. Use it. Live it. Share it.