Respecting government leaders?

(Following on from yesterday…)

It was Peter who wrote “Honour the emperor” in 1 Peter 2:17, but how could Peter write such a thing when his emperor was Nero?  

Nero had Christians covered in tar, fastened to crosses and burned as torches to light up his garden parties; he dragged them behind his chariot through Rome until they were dead, had them killed by wild beasts in arenas, and dressed them in animal skins to be torn to death by dogs. 

But Peter included this perverted madman with the rest of verse 17, which began with, “Show proper respect for everyone.” You mean, show proper respect for a loathsome man like Nero? How on earth could God ask that of Christians? The man was evil, depraved, and he was murdering Christians in horrible ways. 

So what was God’s purpose in requiring Christians to respect their government leaders, and even horrible ones too? 

It would be nice to know the answer to that, because the idea of showing respect to some of the loathsome people in leadership positions today puts my entire mental make-up in resistance mode. But 1 Peter 2:17 brought me up short. God wants me to show proper respect for such people. But how? And why?

I admit to being out of my depth on this one. But what came to mind was Hebrews 5:7, because when Jesus was up against a situation that was humanly impossible for him to handle, and it was causing excruciating mental pain for him too, he expressed his agony “With loud cries and tears to the one who could save him from death,” and “he was heard because of his reverent submission.” 

So the Father heard and helped him out because of Jesus’ deep respect for his will. That’s the starting point: God’s will, impossible and agonizing though it is to obey. So that had to be the starting point for me too. But what exactly did God have in mind for us respecting even loathsome leaders? What possible good thing could be accomplished by showing respect for Nero?  

But then I have to ask what possible good thing was accomplished by Jesus obeying his Father’s will, when it too caused him considerable mental pain? And again I was stuck for an answer. Unless there was something back there in Hebrews 5 again…. 

(More on this tomorrow…)

One thought on “Respecting government leaders?

  1. That’s a tough one. I still remember the trucker’s protest of last February (2022), the tyranny of the “Emergencies Act,” and the freezing of bank accounts just because people exercised their constitutional rights. What galls me is that these leaders get away with murder while the average “Joe” gets put away for the smallest of infractions. While I don’t deny that we’re to “love your enemies,” I also believe that they need to be held accountable for their actions. In the final analysis, according to God’s rule of justice and judgement, no one gets away with anything.

    Jesus didn’t hesitate to call out the leaders of His day:

    “The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat. Therefore whatever they tell you to observe, that observe and do [according to the law of Moses], but do not do according to their works [their traditions and rules]; for they say, and do not do. For they BIND HEAVY BURDENS, hard to bear, and lay them on men’s shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers. But all their works they do to be seen by men.…..
    “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you devour widows’ houses, and for a pretense make long prayers.…..
    “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have NEGLECTED the weightier matters of the law: JUSTICE and MERCY and faith. These you ought to have done, without leaving the others undone. Blind guides, who strain out a gnat and swallow a camel!
    “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you cleanse the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of extortion and self-indulgence. Blind Pharisee, first cleanse the inside of the cup and dish, that the outside of them may be clean also.
    “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which indeed appear beautiful outwardly, but inside are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness. Even so you also outwardly appear righteous to men, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness…..
    “Serpents, brood of vipers! How can you escape the condemnation of hell [Gehenna]? Therefore, indeed, I send you prophets, wise men, and scribes: some of them you will kill and crucify, and some of them you will scourge in your synagogues and persecute from city to city, that on you may come all the righteous blood shed on the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah, son of Berechiah, whom you murdered between the temple and the altar. Assuredly, I say to you, all these things will come upon this generation.” (Matthew 23:1-36, NKJV)


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