At a time when governmental interference into our personal lives is at an all time high, the Bible’s command to submit to our governing authorities may sound like more intrusion than help (1 Peter 2:13-17). However, this command may be the healing balm Christians can offer our fragmenting nation.
Most Americans when they here the word “submit” find their heart rate rising. We are not a people who submit. We declare independence. We take up arms. We don’t give in. Submitting seems outside of our vocabulary. Unfortunately, the moral beauty of the submit concept is often overlooked.
Consider some of the ways the Greek word for “submit” is used in the Bible. In Luke 2:51, Jesus, the Son of God, submits to his earthly parents as a boy. In eternity, Jesus Christ submits to the Father (1 Peter 3:22). Demons, who aim to resist and disturb God’s rule, succumb by submitting to Jesus’ disciples (Luke 10:17, 20). Paul says, “The mind governed by the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so (Romans 8:7). The restoration of all things is marked by a submission of all things to Christ and God (1 Corinthians 15:27-28; Philippians 3:21). Submitting brings order to what could easily become chaos. This submitting is not for domination but to bring order and social flourishing.
While our submission to God’s benevolent rule knows no bounds, there certainly are limits to our submitting to human authorities. If you need to choose between submitting to God or to a human authority figure, the choice is clear. Submit to God (for example Exodus 1:17 and Acts 4:19). Nevertheless, our default ought always be to submit to governing authorities and maintain peace in our land. Even our founding fathers admitted this much in our Declaration of Independence, “Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long not be changed for light and transient causes.”
Dear Christian, you have been set free from your sinful desire to rebel, both against God and against the authorities he has established. Do not use your freedom as an excuse for evil. Christ commands you to submit to your governing authorities.
Use the mechanisms of self-governing before you in our democracy. Work for good to ensure justice in our land. Be the best citizen you can be. Be a good steward of your politics. Nevertheless, protect the peace. Submit to every governing authority as far as you can in reverent fear of God. Practice your independence by depending on God; be a healing balm to your wounded nation.