Practical Proverbial, from 1 Peter, 4 June 2020

But how is it to your credit if you receive a beating for doing wrong and endure it? But if you suffer for doing good and you endure it, this is commendable before God. 1 Peter 2:20 (NIV).

How timely this is right now, when race protests are happening all over America!  

Our nation has writhed under racial crises since the end of the Civil War…that’s 155 years.    Race was the underlying cause that triggered that Civil War, when our forefathers gave up on political compromise to protect their rights as individuals who were enslaving other humans.   Since that was defeated, we have dealt with the aftermath of a sin that we mistakenly assume is ingrained in our American DNA.  

What are we going to do about setting things right in America?   How can we overcome attitudes about race and get to the point where we treat each other as full equals even though we have different skin colors and different backgrounds?   What can we do to change?   I have yet to hear any media culture, protest leaders, or politicians offer anything constructive to address these questions.

The ONLY way to heal our divisions is by embracing Christ.  The ONLY way to implement real change, seek true justice, is to start by following Jesus.  My politics, my views, my defenses of things I believe must all but put under the cross of Christ.   He commends those who are willing to suffer by doing this.   He works through those who are working in His name to spread God’s peace, love, and salvation.   He strengthens people who are weary of standing with the strength to persevere, then overcome.   Only through Jesus shall we overcome some day.

It isn’t an honorable, laudable thing to applaud people who do wrong.   Riots, looting, killing, violence:   anyone who applauds, or even justifies, these things is going against the love of Jesus.  This must be defeated.

But it IS an honorable, praiseworthy thing to stand up for one’s rights, even more to stand up for the rights of people who are persecuted, especially when it isn’t you.  It is Godly, Jesus-like behavior to sympathize with the oppressed and use your life in ways to help them.  You and I can’t change what has happened in the past, but we can make sure the future doesn’t repeat it.

The only way for that to work is for the love of Jesus to be our starting and ending point.   We can’t do it based on politics, or for revenge, or “social justice,” or any other human reason.   If we try anything but going to God first, we will fail and the past will repeat itself.   By truly seeing each other as Jesus sees us – as His brothers and sisters – we will surely succeed.   And then, through Christ, we shall overcome.

For further reading:  Romans 5:3-5, 1 Peter 2:21

Lord Jesus, I’ve sinned against You.  Forgive me, heal me, and teach me again how to truly love my fellow man.

Practical Proverbial, from 1 Peter, 3 June 2020

For it is commendable if someone bears up under the pain of unjust suffering because they are conscious of God. 1 Peter 2:19 (NIV).

Are you familiar with Dietrich Bonhoeffer?  The ten second biography of him is that he was a Lutheran pastor in Nazi Germany who consistently, publicly denounced the Nazis.  From the early 1930s on, Bonhoeffer widely denounced the party and Hitler as idolatrous and murderous.   He joined an underground organization dedicated to opposing the Nazis.  He used his pulpit to denounce Hitler.  Bonhoeffer was arrested in 1943 and interrogated/tortured by the Gestapo for a year and a half.   During that time, his name was falsely attached to the July Plot to assassinate Hitler.   In 1945, just days before Nazi Germany collapsed, Hitler personally ordered Bonhoeffer and other ‘conspirators’ hanged.

Bonhoeffer’s most strident, enthusiastic denunciations of the hard-left Nazis came as he called them out for their policies of euthanizing the infirm and mentally disabled, and eventually for arresting and murdering Jews.   He did this because he was conscious of God.   He was more concerned about his relationship with God and how God would judge him than he was about his opposition to the most powerful dictator in Europe.   Bonhoeffer understood that being conscious of God (and what, through His Word, God asked of people) meant he couldn’t go along with what his government was saying and doing.   He understood that this would cause him persecution, maybe cost him his life.   Bonhoeffer did it anyway, and became a modern-day martyr for Christ.

75 years later, we look at what Dietrich Bonhoeffer did as heroic.   He did what we all think we could or would do under similar oppression.   Bonhoeffer was always conscious of Christ in his life.  When the Nazis executed him, they stripped him completely naked; a personal humiliation and insult designed to send a cruel message.   It didn’t faze him at all.   It is said Dietrich Bonhoeffer walked calmly, nakedly, boldly to the gallows and didn’t complain at all.  He knew a moment of unfamiliar fear would usher him into the arms of Jesus forever.   And it did.

I’m familiar with Bonhoeffer’s story but I’ll confess this:   I don’t know if I could hold up as long as he did.   I don’t believe I’d renounce my faith; I just couldn’t.   But I don’t know if I could be as bold as he was, especially against the hard-left systemic murder that was the Nazi Party.  I’d only know how much I could bear when it all actually happened; I’ll hope it never does.  Yet Bonhoeffer channeled the Apostle Peter, who first wrote today’s verse.   Peter was persecuted; Peter was eventually martyred (and painfully so).   Yet he, too, was always conscious of Jesus abiding with him, strengthening him.

In this 75th year since his martyrdom, consider reading one of Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s books and learning more about this courageous man’s life.

For further reading:  1 Peter 2:20

Lord Jesus, thank You for those who died as martyrs for You.

Practical Proverbial, from 1 Peter, 2 June 2020

Slaves, in reverent fear of God submit yourselves to your masters, not only to those who are good and considerate, but also to those who are harsh. 1 Peter 2:18 (NIV).

Here’s another bitter pill to swallow.  Don’t just submit to the government:   like it.   More than that, if you’re enslaved, submit fully.   Pray for your slave masters.   Do it as if you’re praying for the person you love most.  Seriously?

Seriously.

Who are we enslaved to now?   Are the rioters enslaving innocent business owners?   Is the government enslaving the rioters?   Are you or I enslaved by our employers?   Are children enslaved to their parents?   Here in the West, who enslaves us?

Fact is, there actually are people who enslave us.   Real slavery is still occurring, even in America, when people are trafficked.   It happens in every major city and hundreds of smaller ones.   Be on the lookout because it may even be happening in your neighborhood.   What’s worse, in many places, legal authorities are in on the trafficking.  The victims who are trafficked sexually, even vocationally, aren’t free.  They are used and abused, and when their captor master is finished with them, most often they’re killed.   We who learn of these things must dedicate ourselves to combatting this evil where we can, ending it where we can, freeing the enslaved.

Until this happens, are these modern slaves supposed to submit?   The hard but true answer is “yes.”   Yet even in this, submission is also submission to God, trusting that He will provide what they need, including an exit.  Pray for endurance; pray for peace and healing; pray for your captors that they might be changed or disposed to help you; pray for help; be ready when it comes.

Yet don’t forget, too, that Peter reminds us to be slaves to God, and that Paul encourages us (in Romans) to be slaves to righteousness.   We should fully, willingly submit ourselves to God and all He asks for.   Our lives should be lived honor-bound to Him who redeemed us.   We must look at ourselves as having only the freedom that God gives us through His love because, when we do, we find we are truly free indeed.

I suppose that I live in a Pollyanna-type of life here in the north Dallas suburbs.   Bad things happen in the world and I seem sheltered from them, blithely sailing along from one bland moment to another.  Yet all around me are people who live their lives as slaves to God, and they’re leading lives of rich meaning.   And all around me are others who suffer, people who are mistreated.   What can I do to help them?   Whatever it is, it starts with submitting to God.   Seriously.

For further reading:  Romans 6:18, Peter 2:19

Lord Jesus, I’m Your slave.  Use me for Your work today.   And, Lord, help those who are victims of real earthly slavery.   Protect them, heal them, and show me ways I can help stop this evil.

Practical Proverbial, from 1 Peter, 1 June 2020

Show proper respect to everyone, love the family of believers, fear God, honor the emperor. 1 Peter 2:17 (NIV).

Why should we honor the emperor?

You may not like my saying this but here goes:   the rioting happening in the US right now affirms that the rioters are rejecting God.  Yes, there are valid reasons that started the protests, but rioting isn’t protesting.   Yes, real racism still exists, in some places, in some police (and rioters) even, but racism is evil that we must reject.   Yes, it’s all awful, and yes some in our communities have languished while so many others have prospered and that affects all of us as the family of man.

But the fact is that rioting consciously rejects respect for everyone, and it rejects fearing (respecting) both God and government.   God allows our governments as His instruments for maintaining order.   Rioting rejects our earthly government.   It is war in the streets against the authority that God, through our votes, allows to maintain order here.  To riot is to reject God, to embrace evil.   If the riots continue, things will get worse.   There is no good way out of a riot, out of looting and pillaging.   Nobody wins.

Especially not the Lord, whose ultimate authority is challenged and rejected by willful, sinful people.

Who is “the emperor” and why should we honor him?  Answer:  he is God’s civil authority over people.   He carries power to terrorize you.   We honor him because God said so.   Remember this always.

And then remember that we can’t really show respect for others, love for believers, or respect for God without honoring the civil authorities God allows in place in our world.   We can’t accept that God works through human government to do His perfect will without accepting those in government governing on God’s behalf, even those we oppose.

Even when they do wrong (like those cops in Minneapolis and their feckless city and state governments).  Don’t be quick to forget that God used tyrannical, imperial Rome to play out the story of Christ.   Or Egypt for Abraham’s descendants, and Babylon for the Israelites.   Since Eden, God has always used what man contrives for God’s own higher purposes.   Where man institutes government to impose human controls, God uses the same to further His Kingdom’s goals.   To reach out, to show compassion, to build community, to seek justice.  

Left to our own devices, we can’t do those things.   Jesus said it differently: “apart from Me, you can do nothing.”   Right on, right on.

Especially when that means submitting ourselves to a government that doesn’t always have our best interests at heart.   If you want to protest real injustice, call me:   I protest with you.  Yet if you want to stir things up, to incite a riot, I urge you to do a gut check, then honor the emperor.

For further reading:  Proverbs 24:21, John 15:5, Romans 123:10, Peter 2:18

Lord Jesus, let our motivations only be for You.   Calm, forgive our sinful hearts.

Practical Proverbial, from 1 Peter, 28 May 2020

Live as free people, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as God’s slaves. 1 Peter 2:16 (NIV).

In the Lord, freedom is slavery.   Huh?

We’ve seen rioters on in our country this week; riots over the death of a man at the hands of a policeman.   Rioting isn’t freedom and living under police isn’t slavery.  Yet those police can’t be free to kill people and we of society can’t tolerate it when they do.   To do so would be to be enslaved by the police.

I’ve also been watching a documentary on U.S. Grant.   Grant was the most successful general in the Civil War, and one of the more upright, moral, and effective presidents in spite of the corruption by officials in his administration.  He opposed actual slavery, fought against the government instituted specifically to preserve it, and fought to end the persecution of former slaves.

In Peter’s time, slavery was still a real and accepted norm.  Peter’s people, the Jews, had been slaves in Egypt a thousand years before, and they were enslaved to the Romans in Judea “now.”   Then as now, slavery was seen as a moral evil.   Yet it was accepted that those who were conquered were enslaved.  Their rights were taken away.   They became forced labor, property, unequal.  

And yet Peter tells us to live as God’s slaves; to openly, enthusiastically live as free people because the truth of Jesus’ salvation has set us free.   Indeed, there is no freedom, secular or not, without the saving grace of Christ.  Yet in the very same sentence, Christ’s right-hand-man implores us to live as slaves to Jesus.

Huh?

In the verses immediately prior to this one, Peter tells us to submit ourselves to all authorities, even the police, even the corrupt government that wants to physically enslave us.   Even slave owners.  Peter isn’t telling us to live in favor of slavery, but he’s telling us that God is at work through slavery.   It is we people who tolerate slavery, but it is God who works His will through even our toleration of this and other evils. 

So, Peter tells us to take the example of being enslaved to an evil concept – human chattel – and use it as our example for following Christ.   To be owned by Christ.   To submit everything, body and soul, to Christ.   To give up all freedom, even the freedom He gives us, to Him.   To understand that even when we are abused, we allow this to happen out of submission to Him.

May God today move our hearts to remember this as we try to respond to things happening in our world.   Men like Grant fought against slavery.   And there are those in our world today who are still being wronged, even killed.   We need to stand for them, but peacefully, in slavery to Christ, as He would.  As He does.

For further reading:  Romans 6:22, Peter 2:17

Lord Jesus, I’m Your slave.   Work peace in us today.

Practical Proverbial, from 1 Peter, 27 May 2020

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. 1 Peter 2:13-15 (NIV).

Peter knew the score.   He may not have known he would, like Jesus, die by crucifixion, but he knew it was possible.   All his life he had seen Rome crucify those it wanted to punish…or silence.   Ever since the resurrection, Peter and his closest friends had been under surveillance, in prison, been tortured, been persecuted for simply stating, “I believe in Jesus.”  Peter and the other disciples understood that both their homeland Jewish church and the occupying Roman government were deadly set against them.   They understood what could, what probably would, happen to them for following The Way.  

And they did it anyway.   The Spirit of Christ crucified compelled them to lovingly, boldly, unabashedly proclaim that Jesus is Lord.  In doing so, they proclaimed His word to submit to those authorities who they knew were set against them.  Knowing what we know now, it was an act of love.

Jesus Himself had said “give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and give to God what is God’s.”  That’s more than just advice about tithing.   It is His advice for applying common sense in a non-sensical world.   Money?   Pay what you’re required to pay to the government and what your heart moves you to give to God.   Employment?  Devote yourselves to your work for your employer but give your service to him as an act of worshipping God.  Time?   Use it wisely because the world is watching, but whatever you do, use it as a testament of God’s love for you.

We do that for God.   We do that for us.   We do that so that others, who don’t believe in Jesus, will look at us and, like that pagan centurian, give unwitting glory to Him and say, “this was a righteous man or woman.”  

We do it because this is God’s truth and that truth sets us free.  God wants all His people – and that’s all 7 billion of us – to know, love, worship, and share Him.   He wants all of us to live in His peace, yet most of us don’t.  Most people on this planet don’t know Jesus or outright reject Him.   They are the ignorant, foolish people of whom Peter speaks, yet God loves and provides for them, too.   Jesus died for them, too.   And He wants us to live our lives as a faithful testimony to Him so that others may see this and let nascent questions become roots of faith.

We do life for Him.   That’s the real score for us to make and watch.

For further reading:  John 8:32, Galatians 5:13, Peter 2:16

Lord Jesus, let my thoughts and actions testify about You today.

Practical Proverbial, from 1 Peter, 26 May 2020

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 right1 Peter 2:13-14 (NIV).

This one is difficult for me to write.   We’re still in lockdown in many places thanks to the outbreak of COVID-19:   a disease that hasn’t been nearly as deadly as most trusted experts predicted.   It has been awful, and has killed almost 350000 people worldwide.   Cases in most countries are declining, yet with over 5 million cases across the globe, many places are still locked down, especially in the US.  That doesn’t give someone great reason to trust government.

Not only, but our politics here in the US have been divided for decades.   This isn’t anything new to people reading this overseas; government corruption is as old as Eden.   Yet not since the 1960s has this nation been so politically divided, perhaps not since the Civil War.  Right against left; Democrat against Republican; one side against another.   And yet government grows, government interference, especially in conduct of the church, grows.  That, too, doesn’t give someone great reason to trust government.

This year is the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II, when tyranny and murder were temporarily defeated   The most destructive war in human history came about as the result of the world’s response when government based in death and hatred attacked nations at peace.  During this Memorial Day week, thank God that He gave us men and women willing to fight, and die, to free others.   If only they had stayed free, for the fallen world soon launched other wars, new tyranny, more death.   And the band played on.

Yet here, still, God requires that we submit ourselves to all authorities.   Parents, bosses, governors, presidents:   they are God’s instruments for maintaining His will in the world.  Upright or not, no political or professional leader has their position without God allowing it or deeming it so.   Governments are instituted among men to secure rights given to us by God; to do things for society that individuals cannot.   Through this, God works to reach all his people, even through dictatorship in places such as China, North Korea, Cuba, or dozens of lesser dictatorships all across Africa, South America, and even in some US state governments.   Nothing, even evil, happens that is not under God’s dominion.

This doesn’t mean God causes evil.  We do.   God allows us the consequences of choice, all of which involve some degree of embracing evil.   Yet for our own good and for the growth of believers in Him, God requires that we submit to all authorities so that we might trust Him to do as He will.

For further reading:  Romans 13:1-4, Titus 3:1, Peter 2:15

Lord Jesus, help me to submit to authority, to recognize You will do Your work through this and through them.