Jeremiah 29:4–9; Daniel 2:24–30; 1 Peter 2:11–17 (read online ⧉)
The American experiment has certainly had its interesting times. During extreme times there have been many attempts to do something dramatic to “fix” things. The Civil War was an extreme act that appeared to be a moral response to a injustice. The FDR administration attempted grandiose programs in an attempt to recover an economy in shambles. Today we have Federal, State, County, and City governments doing all sorts of things in an attempt to protect the populace from COVID-19.
As people become frustrated, whether being stuck at home, not going to work, watching things not succeeding or improving (or the perception thereof), or politicians making (human) missteps, we are seeing, hearing, and even experiencing strong reactions against a lot actions taken. In a healthy democratic republic, people speaking out in an informed way is helpful and can help build up and improve the country. However, it would seem that our democratic republic is not all that healthy. Certainly, people of most of the political parties (not just the top 2) are saying something to that effect. Your social media stream might even be filled with them, too.
As Christians, we are to put aside our “rights”. Or, perhaps, it is better said, we ought to look to the Scriptures before we declare our “rights” as Americans. Of course, they don’t necessarily conflict, at least not always.
As the Israelites went into exile, God did not say oppose your (oppressive) government. God said to work for its success. That doesn’t mean don’t seek change, but that their responsibility was to everyone else, too, not just this oppressive regime. There is also the truth that it was only after they “did their time” in captivity would the way back to the Promised Land be available to them. Their ability to go back was based on their ability to survive now. Their ability to thrive (not just survive) in their new circumstances was based upon their pursuit of the well-being of Babylon.
Daniel was another case. He too was captive. He too was taken away. He was trained and educated to be an advisor to the ruler, and become a lower-tier ruler himself (along with his 3 companions). He was put into a place where he could have influenced the downfall of leaders. It’s not as if others didn’t have those plans. He chose not to. He followed the plan God had called him to, and it probably wasn’t easy. Did he try to lessen the load of his fellow Israelites, get this…the Bible doesn’t say. Perhaps that wasn’t Daniel’s purpose. Perhaps his purpose was to be a faithful witness of and to God, and in so doing pursuing the best for Babylon and its people.
Peter’s words to the Christians in the diaspora weren’t much different. The Roman government was much the same as the Babylonian one, especially from a Jewish standpoint. What did he tell them? Submit to them! Peter’s words might even be harder than then ones from Jeremiah. Submit! Not all the people that Peter wrote to were outside Roman circles, some of them were true Roman citizens, which was no small thing. The message was the same, though.
When we accepted Jesus as our Lord and Savior, we accepted that any citizenship we had on earth was superseded by the one in Heaven. As such, our concerns are to be first of Heaven, then of earth. That is not to say, however, that we are not to seek the success of the kingdoms of earth, it’s just that our standing on earth is secondary. There is an implied issue in Jeremiah’s words, if you become too comfortable in the place you are, you will not return to the Promised Land. The story of the return was indeed part of that. Only some retained their citizenship as the People of God. They returned. Those that surrendered their citizenship remained in Babylon.
God, as we walk through these times, help keep our eyes on you and our citizenship in Heaven. Help that motivate our actions and responses to the world. Amen.
1) What are you doing to help your community thrive in the midst of COVID-19?
2) What does it mean for you to work for the success of earthly kingdoms while keeping your eye and heart on your citizenship in Heaven?
3) How do we balance the submission to earthly authorities with the call to be salt and light? How is it different in a democratic republic (like the USA) versus an authoritarian regime?