There are many reasons we need to pay special attention to ourselves and our relationship to our world, not the least of which is that God ordained civil authorities and commands obedience to them.
“Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God.” (Romans 13:1).
“Remind them to be submissive to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good work, to speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy toward all people.” (Titus 3:1-2).
“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.” (1 Peter 2:13-14).
But our responsibility as Christians goes beyond just obedience to the “laws of the land.” We are to exert a positive influence in the world in which we live. We are to “be ready for every good work,” – being there to do whatever good we are able to do to whoever needs our help.
We are to not speak evil of anyone. Some of us need to take this exhortation to heart at this season of political campaigning. I see so many Christians repeating the most scurrilous charges against candidates when they have no way of earth of verifying the truthfulness of what they are repeating. All they have is the word of some extremely biased media reporter who puts the worst slant on his story. When we pick it up and repeat it we are just as guilty of misrepresenting the truth as the reporter.
We are to be active agents for righteousness in the world in which we live.
“You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet.
“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house.” (Matthew 5:13-15).
Light and salt are not passive agents. They have an effect on their environment. When light is introduced into a dark room the darkness flees. One can see to walk safely without fear of stumbling over some unseen obstacle and injuring one’s self. When salt is put into food it acts as a preservative and as a flavor enhancer.
The Christian is to exert an influence that is like salt and light in their world. When a Christian lives in a community his or her very manner of life is to shed the light of divine truth into the world. For people who are looking for light, the Christian is a beacon, showing men the way to Christ who is the “true light.” By contrast his life also reveals the ugliness of sin and lust that those who practice such things seek to keep concealed. This is why Christians are hated by some people. The lives of faithful Christians are a constant reminder of how far away from God’s intent for human life the sinner is.
It is God’s intention for the Christian to live in the light. We have been called out of darkness into his marvelous light. (1 Peter 2:9). It is his intention that we reflect that light into the world around us. We are to “shine as lights” in the world. (Philippians 2:15).
There are indications in all these scriptures as to what is meant by being light or shining as light. All the way from not “grumbling and complaining” to being “gentle” and showing “perfect courtesy” to those around us.
The Christian is to have influence in the world in two ways. The first is by avoidance. We are to have no part with the “unfruitful works of darkness.” We are to shun evil and live a life of positive goodness for our own sake, but also that it might make the worldly ashamed of his evil deeds. Will this bring us ease and freedom from opposition? Certainly not. Wicked men will still speak evil of the Christian.
But we can have an influence over them even though they may revile and condemn us. We do so by active involvement with the world.
“For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people.” (1 Peter 2:15).
This verse again tells us that we have been called by God to a life of relentless good deeds. It is God’s will that we do so.
“And let our people learn to devote themselves to good works, so as to help cases of urgent need, and not be unfruitful.” (Titus 3:14).
We are in the world – in the realm that is filled with sin and temptation to do evil. We are in the world but are not OF the world. Therefore we must remain separate from the influence of evil in our own lives.
But we are also in the world FOR the world. We are to be engaged with the world. We are not to be cloistered in our own monasteries (church buildings), but are to be a visible and felt presence in the lives of those around us. We have the awesome responsibility of being a presence that constantly reminds people that God is and that he is foremost in our lives. Even the small things we do in the name of our Lord and Savior – like giving someone a cup of cold water – can have tremendous effect.
Christians are not rebels against the governing institutions of this world. We are to be obedient to rulers and authorities – for the Lord’s sake. We drive within the speed limit, observe the other driver’s rights of way, and are courteous doing it. Christians do not allow themselves to be overcome with “road rage” because they don’t get their own way or because someone is discourteous to them.
“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.” (1 Peter 2:13-15).
The Christian is truly free in a society that perceives freedom as being able to do anything one wants. Such a society is not free at all but enslaved to the passions of the flesh or to the tyranny of human traditions. Christians are to live as truly free people – free from enslavement to drugs and alcohol, pornography, sensuality, sexual perversion or even the dominance of life by a religious system. That freedom is not permission to do as we please, but carries the responsibility of illustrating the blessedness of being the Lord’s servants.
“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 Peter 2:16-17).
Christians are supposed to be the best citizens, the best husbands/wives, the best neighbors, the best employers/employees, the best friends, the best of everything in this world. We owe it to God, to ourselves, our families and to our communities to be so. It is regrettable that in our day so many have the idea that religion is just about the individual being satisfied until they can get off this earth and “fly away” to heaven in the “sweet by and by.”
Christianity is about so much more than that. It is about building in the here and now a better world for all of us – as much as we have the ability to do so. I am not talking about a “Christian” movement of some kind to take over society. I am talking about Christians practicing authentic Christianity, serving God by serving our fellow man. I am talking about being the best we can be and doing the best we can do for our families, our communities, our nation and our world.