For it is God’s will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish people. Live as free people, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as God’s slaves.
1 Peter 2:15-16 (NIV)
Read: 1 Peter 2:11-25
Consider: The Apostle Peter in his first letter tells us to ‘Live as free people’ and in the same sentence to ‘live as God’s slaves’ (1 Peter 2:16). How can we be ‘free’ and a ‘slave’ at the same time?
Earlier in today’s reading Peter tells us: Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human authority; whether to the emperor as the supreme authority, or to governors …’ (2:13-14a). Peter does not say that we should be slaves (servants) of the state, but that in submission to earthly higher authorities Christians may: ‘… by doing good … silence the ignorant talk of foolish people (2:15). Peter is concerned that Christians should at all times be a witness to those among whom they live. Submission to the governing authorities is an exercise of our free will, not because we are forced to do so. This is to be an expression of our obedience and loyalty to God.
Peter does not instruct us to obey and submit to earthly authorities in all circumstances. If our governments told us to do something sinful, something contrary to what we are told in the Bible, the Christian cannot and should not obey. This may bring Christians into conflict with governments and also with society at large. Examples of this would be nations where same-sex marriage, sex before marriage, abortion and assisted death are accepted and promoted. We should not be surprised at society adopting these things, as surely they are clear indications of sin in the world. However, it is when Christians accept these things as the norm that is a real cause for concern.
The freedom we have in Christ is not freedom to do anything we like. Peter makes this clear when he says: Live as free people, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil (2:16). Peter is teaching us that we are free from slavery to sin, together with the penalty for sin, thus making us free to serve God. The Apostle Paul in his first letter to the church in Corinth speaks of the believer’s freedom (1 Corinthians 10:23-33), warning them: ‘I have the right to do anything,’ you say – but not everything is beneficial. ‘I have the right to do anything’ – but not everything is constructive. No-one should seek their own good, but the good of others (1 Corinthians 10:23-24).
It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery (Galatians 5:1).
Pray: Father, help us to always use our freedom in Christ in ways that bring glory to you. We see that although we have freedom, we are also your slaves (servants); may we willingly submit to you at all times. May we never cause a fellow believer to stumble by using our freedom in Christ inappropriately. Amen
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