Joanna Schneider '13
Student Director forBig Brother, Big Sister
Major: Sociology modified with Psychology; Minor in Chemistry
Other Campus Involvements: DOC; General Manager of Big Green Bus
Fun fact: She got involved in Big Brother, Big Sister in high school, over 7 years ago!
Not too long ago and not too far away, there was a war. And in this war an army marched into a small country. In the face of overwhelming odds, the small country surrendered to the invaders and the Queen and the government went into exile. Occupation was unpleasant, but generally tolerable – at least, it quickly became clear, if you were not Jewish. The occupying force was, of course, Nazi Germany, and the small country was Holland. As in other occupied countries, resistance bands formed, and some of these were organized by Christians who did not feel comfortable with the idea of violent resistance and instead focused their energies on hiding and protecting Jews and others in danger from the Nazi regime. It was not uncommon for them to be discovered. When they were, and it became apparent to their captors that they had resisted out of Christian conviction, the Nazis – who by no means wanted to present themselves as anti-Christian – tried to convict them by their own religion. One officer demanded of his prisoner what the Bible taught about submission to authority. The Christian responded calmly, “Fear God, and honor the Queen.” Naturally, this just about gave his accuser an apoplectic fit and he snapped back that the Bible said no such thing. “No,” agreed the man respectfully. “It says, ‘Fear God and honor the King.’ But in our case, we have a Queen.”
As you can imagine, this did not go over too well with the present authorities. But the man raised a common question regarding the obligation of Christian communities. In today’s reading, we are exhorted to “Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme, or to governors.” It appears, however, that our Nazi officer failed to read the second part of this sentence, for the 14th verse continues, “as sent by God to punish those who do wrong and to praise those who do right.” And it is hard to argue that the mass murder of God’s chosen people was right.
But although it is important to know what is right, it is also important to know how to go about doing what is right. Why are we told to honor the king, when even in Peter’s day the government was by no means a paragon of virtue? First of all, we must remember that the charge “Honor the king,” is not highlighted above any of the other commands in verse 17 of the second chapter of first Peter, which reads: “Honor all men. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the king.” Our loyalty, after all, is not primarily to the Barack Obama, but to God. We are called servants of God. The Christian community must never allow itself to lose sight of our primary occupation. Why, as servants of God, do we have to honor the President of the United States? We are given the answer: “Maintain good conduct among the Gentiles, so that in case they speak against you as wrongdoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation”, that is, on the day that God makes the truth known to them. In this way, we are told to Honor the king so that God may be glorified. And therefore, if in honoring the king we are called to do anything that would dishonor God, we must not do it. Christian communities, as they build each other up from the inside, must simultaneously remain aware of how they are perceived by the public. Not for popularity in the world, but to be faithful ambassadors of God. In this sense, the Christian community is like an embassy; we are foreigners here on Earth, but as ambassadors we must watch ourselves so that we do not misrepresent our native country – God’s kingdom. Ambassadors do not invent their own policies, they do not allow one particular favorite stance to dominate and become an end in and of itself. A Christian community is one that lives in the world, but is not of the world – we are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people, that we may declare the wonderful deeds of him who called us out of darkness into his marvelous light. Christ, not social activism, not patriotism, not environmentalism, not democracy, is our compass and our guide. We are told to Honor the king precisely so that the kingdom of God is not swallowed up by a political or activist movement using religion as a vehicle. The man I told you about saved his Jewish neighbors not because he hated the invaders, not because he was a member of the resistance, not even because he thought it was the right thing to do, but because it was right in the eyes of God, who commanded us to love our neighbors as ourselves. Being focused on the will of God, even above honoring the king, is how a Christian community serves the Lord. If we in Christian communities sought out our own wills or the favor of the world above all else, this man would never have been able to save the lives of his Jewish neighbors. But no, we live as free men, and by doing right put to silence the ignorance of foolish men, and glorify God.
Last Updated: 8/7/11