The following are the notes from this week’s CROSSROADS lesson. Words in bold identify key phrases from notes pages handed out each week. If you would like copies of our slides, please feel free to reach and request them. As these are from the notes pages for each week, please excuse any typos or grammatical errors.
lmost everyone has heard the popular phrase ‘fighting the man’. Who is ‘the man’? It’s anyone who tries telling you how to live, who to follow, or what to think. It is the epitome of being an American: we are the master’s of our own life!
But is this really true? Is this the life Jesus called us to? How do you think God views authority different from us? These are questions we must answer, especially in this day in age where protests and demonstrations are so popular.
Peter gives a pretty concise description of how we respond to authority in 1 Peter. He breaks it down into a PRACTICAL reason and a THEOLOGICAL reason. I personally love how Peter argues his point because it connects to a theme I keep bringing up in this youth group and elsewhere in my writing: God designed the world to work a specific way. Even when God seems to be calling us to some moral standard, there is almost always some practical reason why God is also asking us to live, act, or believe a certain way. After all, wouldn’t you expect that supreme architect of the universe to know how life should work better than any of us? If God’s giving us a command, there is almost always a reason.
First, Peter gives us the practical reason for respecting authority.
Household slaves, submit to your masters with all reverence not only to the good and gentle ones but also to the cruel. 19 For it brings favor if, because of a consciousness of God, someone endures grief from suffering unjustly. 20 For what credit is there if when you do wrong and are beaten, you endure it? But when you do what is good and suffer, if you endure it, this brings favor with God. (1 Peter 2:18-20)
Peter’s first lesson is to SUBMIT to authority whether we find that authority ‘good’ or ‘bad’. This is something the world struggles with horribly. Living in a democracy, it’s almost like many Christians today want to assume that ‘respecting authority’ no longer applies. While we are not called to blindly “follow” authority, we are called to “respect” it. Case-in-point, whether you agree or disagree with the current president or congress, would you all agree that neither group is being respected or respectful? I think most of us would agree that respect has completely gone out the window.
We have to ask ourselves why God wants us to submit to authority, even when authority is bad. Peter states that submission ‘BRINGS FAVOR’ to God. Why do you think that is? The argument Peter makes is that anyone can ‘act Christian’ when they are serving someone who is good. Just apply this to your own life. It’s good to be ‘a good little Christian’ when your teachers and your parents are all doing things you want them to do. On the other hand, when you’re dealing with someone who makes your life miserable, your faith is really tested. That’s when people get to see how much you really believe “all this Jesus stuff”. Are you going to crumble like someone who just likes the casual idea of God, or will you choose to act with kindness, patience, and forgiveness even when you ‘authority figures’ don’t deserve it? That shows society something they aren’t used to seeing. If you aren’t careful, you might be accidentally witness to someone simply through your reaction to a bad situation.
The practical side of submitting to authority is that through our submission we are more effective Christians. We stand apart from society by showing love and grace in the face of adversity. It may not be as ‘fun’ or ‘satisfying’ as protesting, rioting, rebelling, and arguing, but it brings favor to God by causing people to ask themselves how you can be so strong and so resilient in the face of authority that treats you poorly.
There is also a moral side to submission to authority. We don’t just do it because it “looks good” or because it helps us convey a message to the world around us. It also allows us to reflect Christ in our lives and to practice being more like Jesus.
Read 1 Peter 2:21-25…
For you were called to this, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps. He did not commit sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth;when he was insulted, he did not insult in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten but entrusted himself to the one who judges justly. He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree; so that, having died to sins, we might live for righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. For you were like sheep going astray, but you have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls. (1 Peter 2:21-25)
Something that I find interesting is that Peter says we are actually CALLED to submit to other because Christ had to submit throughout his entire life and because of that, our submission to authority models the LIFE OF CHRIST. Christ didn’t spend his life protesting his circumstances or trying to change ‘the system’. He rarely fought with the authority of those governing him or his people. Instead, he focused on challenging the SIN in people’s lives and the broken relationship between God and man.
Apply that to our own lives. There are tons of people today who are focusing so much on challenging authority. You can see it on a larger scale on the news and you can see it on a smaller scale in your classrooms when students disrespect teachers and children disrespect parents. The only reason these things are so common is because rebelling against “the man” is actually celebrated by our culture. Jesus sees things differently because with Jesus there is absolutely no confusion over who is really in control. God is in control. God wins. Because we have security in Christ, what do we have to fear submitting to an earthly authority here on earth whose authority will end when our time in this place ends?
Jesus set an example of ultimate submission through SUBMITTING to death on a cross. It was a death he did not earn and a debt he did not owe. He did it for us because he wanted to show us what a relationship with God truly meant. A relationship with God isn’t based on acting a certain way or doing certain things. Relationship is based on SUBMISSION to God’s idea of what is good and right instead of finding our own way. You see, this lesson on authority and submission isn’t just a pretty little lesson about how we should treat teacher and parents; it’s a lesson on how we can model the relationship we have with God with those around us on a daily basis.