Submission to a Government at War with Itself
The late Neil Postman, author/media theorist in published a prophetic book 1985, Amusing Ourselves to Death.
- Popular media has shaped and shapes the discourse of the world.
- Television has negatively affected public communication in modern-day America.
Our wild media-boom makes this even more relevant today!
Postman paints a dystopic (frightening) literary vision comparing fiction-writing authors:
George Orwell’s “1984” with Aldous Huxley’s “Brave New World.”
- Orwell’s “1984” warned of a tyrannical state banning information to make the public powerless.
- Huxley’s “Brave New World” depicted a population too amused by distractions — entertainment, leisure, and laughter — to realize that they had been made powerless.
For Postman, by 1985, television had turned our world into a Huxleyan one.
“What Orwell feared were those who would ban books. What Huxley feared was that there would be no reason to ban a book, for there would be no one who wanted to read one.
Orwell feared those who would deprive us of information. Huxley feared those who would give us so much that we would be reduced to passivity and egoism.
Orwell feared that the truth would be concealed from us. Huxley feared the truth would be drowned in a sea of irrelevance.
Orwell feared we would become a captive culture. Huxley feared we would become a trivial culture, preoccupied with some equivalent of the feelies…
Huxley in Brave New World Revisited, said those on alert to oppose tyranny “failed to take into account man’s almost infinite appetite for distractions.”
Postman set out to prove this from Amusing Ourselves to Death:
- Politics, religion, news, athletics, education, and commerce have been transformed into congenial adjuncts of show business.
- America favors all those who possess both a talent and a format to amuse.
- The concept of truth is intimately linked to the biases of forms of expression.
- In the middle of the 19th century:
- Transportation and communication are disengaged from each other.
- Space was not an inevitable constraint on the movement of information.
- This came with the invention of electricity.
- And, subsequently the telegraph.
- The telegraph wrapped the continent in an information grid and created the possibility of a unified American discourse.
- Telegraphy brought into being a world of broken time attention.
- Its main strength was the capacity to move information, not collect it, explain it or analyze it.
“The telegraph is suited only to the flashing of messages, each to be quickly replaced by a more up-to-date message.
Facts push other facts into and then out of consciousness at speeds that neither permit nor require evaluation.”
The question of Relevance is key!
Something just happened in Virginia was suddenly relevant in Texas?
What does this mean for you? This is now a million times more of a question.
The Age of Show Business
- The television is devoted entirely to supplying its audience with entertainment.
- The average length of a shot on network television is only 3.5 seconds.
- The eye never rests and has always something new to see.
“The problem is not that television presents us with entertaining subject matter but that all subject matter is presented as entertaining, which is another issue altogether.”
- Thinking does not play well on television, as there is not much to see in it.
- It is now a performing art.
Culture likes to watch, moving pictures — millions of them, of short duration and dynamic variety.
- People no longer talk to each other but entertaining each other.
- We do not exchange ideas, we exchange images.
- We do not argue with propositions but with good looks, celebrities, and commercials.
“Now … This”
- Nearly every half hour is a discrete event, separated in content, context, and emotional texture from what precedes and follows it.
- News are fragmented and without context, consequences, value, or seriousness; they are pure entertainment.
- The average length of any news story is forty-five seconds, which is not enough time to explore the whole depth of a story.
- No matter how grave the news, it’s followed by a series of short commercials.
Reach Out and Elect Someone
- Show business’ main business is to please the crowd.
- With the switch to television, politics became show business.
- The idea is not to pursue excellence, clarity or honesty, but to appear as if you are.
- The opposite with smear campaigns!
- Commercials are still a primary vehicle to present political ideas in political campaigns!
- On average 15 seconds long using visual symbols to learn the lessons being taught.
- Being sold solutions is better than being confronted with questions about problems.
The Huxleyan Warning
“[Aldous Huxley] was trying to tell us that what afflicted the people in Brave New World was not that they were laughing instead of thinking, but that they did not know what they were laughing about and why they had stopped thinking.”
Ironically, our wildly media-driven culture makes both Orwell’s and Huxley’s warnings more relevant.
- Our culture is beginning to wake up to Amusing itself to Death.
- The response seems to be both panic and with more media.
- And with increasing skepticism and fear of Government tyranny!
- I think conservatives and liberals both fear of “Big Brother!”
- Whichever side is “Big Brother” on!
- Conservatives and liberals have polarized narratives of concern!
“What is the Christian response?”
- Return to the printed word. To the inspired Word.
- Not moving pictures, but inspired, timeless, transcendent Truth.
- Here we find how to think and what to do.
Scripture takes us to ground Truth in terms of how to view Government.
- “How are we supposed to approach our Government?”
- In terms of its authority and our posture of submission?
- “What about America’s Government?”
- “How do we trust and submit to a government that this at war with itself?”
1 Peter 2:13-17 provides the answer.
Submitting to Secular Government (vv. 13-17)
To Every Human Institution (v. 13)
“Be subject” [Grk] Huppotasso is literally ranking yourself under a someone else.
- A military
- Repeated three times as a theme (cf. vv. 13, 18; 3:1).
- Imperative commands as participles.
“…to every human institution” literally “every human creation” meaning all scenarios of authority.
- All authority structures.
- Government, Employer, Neighborhood.
- Pagan, secular leadership, good and/or evil.
With God in Mind (vv. 13-14)
“for the Lord’s sake” is not to be overlooked.
- The perspective from a submissive posture is always looking upward.
- Yes, you see your superiors.
- Yes, submitting to human beings.
- However, always seeing through them to a higher Superior.
- It takes faith to see God’s sovereign rule over “every human institution” (v. 13).
“…for the Lord’s sake” steps into motive. Submitting to superiors for God’s glory.
- “Kurios” the “Lord or Master.”
- Verses 12 and 21-25 brackets to lock down this truth.
- Submissive conduct, especially under persecution reflects God’s glory.
- Christ is the example, when reviled, continued entrusting himself to his Father.
These impossible submission scenarios are designed for you to actually look like Christ.
- To submit like Christ is to win the world to Christ (cf. v. 12).
- Submission in hostility is distinctively Christian.
This is again, “…subject…to every human institution” (v. 13).
From the highest to the lowest forms of government.
a. Highest Authority
“whether it be to the emperor as supreme” (v. 13).
- Our President, Nation’s Capitol, Congress, Supreme Court.
- No matter how distant your High Leaders of our Country are to you.
- Or, how offensive their convictions, decisions, manner, style, or attitudes may be.
- Christians are called to both respect and pray for both office and officer.
Last week, I was in a conversation in our community where someone commented on how he thought mainstream Christians voted for our current president because they viewed him as a friend to Christianity.
“What if our President someday is an outright enemy to Christianity?”
“You may not vote for him but you must certainly pray for him.” “Why?”
ESV 1 Timothy 2:1-3 First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people,2 afor kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and bdignified in every way. 3 This is good, and ait is pleasing in the sight of bGod our Savior
Remember, Nero who pronounced himself deity (on his coin, Pontifex Maximus).
- Was in power when Peter wrote the letter 1st
- Christians burned at the stake to light his gardens and Peter crucified upside down under Nero.
With a world of confused and at times vicious politics.
- The temptation either to disengage totally from it all.
- On the other hand, to engage in political warfare to change it all.
- Can both be wrong and can be a complete distraction from our mission.
First course of action is submission.
b. Lowest Authority
“…or to governors as sent by him” (v. 14)
- The mention of “governors” reveals a pecking order.
- Lesser forms of authority flow from a command structure.
- This also means not all levels of governance will be evil.
- Examples of police or even laws like obeying a stop sign or pulling over for a firetruck or ambulance zooming by all warrant our submission.
“Since Christianity is not Anarchy are we ever supposed to NOT submit?”
17 Tell us, then, what you think. Is it lawful to pay ataxes to bCaesar, or not?"18 But Jesus, aware of their malice, said, "Why aput me to the test, you hypocrites?19 Show me the coin for the tax." And they brought him a denarius.120 And Jesus said to them, "Whose likeness and inscription is this?"21 They said, "Caesar's." Then he said to them, a"Therefore render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's."
51 And behold, one of those who were with Jesus stretched out his hand and drew his asword and struck the servant1 of the high priest and cut off his ear.52 Then Jesus said to him, "Put your sword back into its place. For aall who take the sword will perish by the sword.53 aDo you think that I cannot appeal to my Father, and he will at once send me bmore than twelve clegions of angels?
“When are we called to rebel against authorities?”
Only in Two cases:
- When a Christian is commanded to disobey
- Or commanded not to obey
The early church actively rebelled in Acts 5 to evangelize!
25 And someone came and told them, "Look! The men whom you put in prison aare standing in the temple and teaching the people." 26 Then athe captain with the officers went and brought them, but not by force, for bthey were afraid of being stoned by the people. 27 And when they had brought them, they set them before the council. And the high priest questioned them, 28 saying, a"We strictly charged you not to teach in this name, yet here you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching, and you bintend to bring this man's blood upon us." 29 But Peter and the apostles answered, a"We must obey God rather than men.”
The early church passively rebelled in Acts 9 to protect a new convert!
Acts 9:20-25 [Paul’s conversion at Damascus]
20 And immediately he proclaimed Jesus in the synagogues, saying, a"He is the Son of God."21 And all who heard him were amazed and said, "Is not this the man who amade havoc bin Jerusalem of those who called upon this name? And has he not come here for this purpose, to bring them bound before the chief priests?"22 But Saul aincreased all the more in strength, and bconfounded the Jews who lived in Damascus by proving cthat Jesus was the Christ.23 aWhen many days had passed, the Jews plotted to kill him,
24 but their aplot became known to Saul. bThey were watching the gates day and night in order to kill him,25 but his disciples took him by night and alet him down through an opening in the wall,1 lowering him in a basket. (Act 9:20-25 ESV)
2 Cor. 11:32-33:
32 At Damascus, the governor under King Aretas awas guarding the city of Damascus in order to seize me,33 abut I was let down in a basket through a window in the wall and escaped his hands. (2Co 11:32-33 ESV)
The Jews stirred secular authorities to capture Paul.
There is a time to flee and a time to stay and absorb persecution. “How do you know when to do what?”
- Paul acted in faith, being wise and harmless.
- Paul acted in stealth while not responding with force.
- The questions to raise to discern what to do in any threatening situation are:
“Am I being forced to violate Scripture?” Something Scripture forbids.
“Am I being restrained from obeying Scripture?”
With Benefits in mind (vv. 14-15)
a. Evil punished (v. 14a)
“to punish those who do evil” [Gk] “vengeance is taken”
- This action of government should connect with the believer’s sense of moral justice.
- Believers understand the root cause of lawbreaking sinful actions.
- It is a lawbreaking sinful heart.
- We grieve along with the Holy Spirit when we witness pain and suffering by injustices and wrongdoing.
- We should have a natural sense of moral indication.
- We also understand sin’s power and the need for society to fear government’s sword
- Society needs punishment and the warning of punishment.
- Without it, any society will be led by anarchists. The mob. The underground.
- Someone will be leading for sure.
- You see how quickly a mob takes over when there are natural disasters or sudden power outages.
- When a crowd believes there are no consequences, that authority has been usurped, it begins to riot, to ruin, and steal.
This is teased out in Romans 13:1-6.
ESV Romans 13:1-6 Let every person abe subject to the governing authorities. For bthere is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God.
2 Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment.3 For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you awill receive his approval,4 for ahe is God's servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, ban avenger who carries out God's wrath on the wrongdoer.5 Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God's wrath but also afor the sake of conscience.6 For because of this you also pay taxes, for the authorities are ministers of God, attending to this very thing.
b. Good is rewarded (v. 14b)
At the same time, Peter recognizes that all society is not overtly evil.
- Everyone doesn’t riot when the power drops.
- When disaster strikes, often society’s deepest nobilities rise to the surface.
“and to praise those who do good” (v. 14).
- Government honors nobility.
- First responders deserve praise.
- Volunteers who grow society and offer relief.
- Citizens who serve in government for betterment.
- In addition, what about just the general population who obey the laws? Government praises them too.
“Why care about Secular Government?” Because we should not take peace for granted.
Paul makes a direct correlation between God’s goodness for blessing Christians with a “peaceful and quiet life” and God being “our Savior who desires all people to be saved…”
Our peace as Christians here acts as a foretaste of the peace found in the Cross and in heaven.
ESV 1 Timothy 2:1-4 First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people,2 afor kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and bdignified in every way. 3 This is good, and ait is pleasing in the sight of bGod our Savior,who desires aall people to be saved and bto come to cthe knowledge of the truth.
c. Critics are silenced (v. 15)
“How do you know God’s will for your life?” Ask yourself: “Are you submissive?”
Being like Jesus in a secular world puts you in the center of God’s will.
“doing good” repeats the same idea as verse 14. This is “submitting.”
- By “Submitting” you “silence” [Gk] “muzzle” people who Peter calls “foolish” and “ignorant” [Gk] without knowledge.
- Un-spiritually minded or “natural” who “speak against you as evildoers” (v. 12).
- Whether unsaved boss, government official, spouse, colleague.
- Nobody argues with a submissive person!
- When acting in a genuinely submissive posture, without attitude, the fight is OVER!
- [Note] cf. 2:22-23 “When he [Christ] was reviled…”
There is a second aspect to doing God’s will (v. 16)
d. Christians are freed (vv. 16-17)
“Live as people who are free” picks up with the command to “Be subject” (v. 13) which is also “doing good” (v. 15).
- This is the paradox of the Christian life.
- How are you supposed to “Live as people who are free?” By “living as servants of God” (v. 16).
- Becoming a “slave” [Grk] Theou douloi “slaves of God” (v. 16).
Here again is the vertical focus, where believers serve secular superiors by seeing through them to their God.
- This is the powerful freedom every believer has.
- Your faith in God is so powerful, you can be free as king of your castle while living as a slave shackled in someone else’s dungeon.
- Circumstances do not dictate your soul’s freedom.
This freedom is so powerful that Peter immediately squelches a temptation!
- The command: “not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil…” (v. 16).
- The picture is straightforward and the command is clear.
- Do not play some kind of game where you use your position in heaven to exempt yourself from playing by the rules, the law of the land.
Verse 17 captures the balanced Christian attitude where you live free because while strive to obey your Lower authorities of your land your mind is fully bent on serving your Higher Authority.
- Peter uses a broad sweep to acknowledge every category of person you are dealing with.
- First, “Honor everyone” (v. 17).
- “Who is everyone?” Saved and unsaved. Christian and pagan.
- Christians, “Love the brotherhood.”
- Then “God.” “Fear God” (v. 17).
- Last, the “emperor.” We are to “Honor the emperor” (v. 17).
Peter lays out these categories, saying, your attitude should be “honoring” across the board.
- Literally, estimating value toward all kinds of individuals.
- As a believer, it comes naturally to value fellow believers.
- Those whom you love.
- Fearing God is even easier to do.
However, “What about the emperor?”
- Especially when taking direct, negative opposition from this person’s leadership.
- “How can you honor him?”
You remember God has placed this individual in power and by faith you honor him because you know in doing so you honor God.
Society is primed to influence! News media narrates how society thinks and how it should feel about itself and its leaders.
- A surge of anarchy swells in our land toward any kind of real or perceived authority.
- This fed by media.
- Conservative media is equally entertainment-driven even countering liberal agendas.
- “So, where do we go?”
Contra to being either banned from reading Truth or falling prey to amusing ourselves to death.
We will return to God’s Word for grounding!
Staying in God’s Word keeps the Christian in God’s will.
St Augustine is famous for this quote:
"Love God and do whatever you please: for the soul trained in love to God will do nothing to offend the One who is Beloved."
People love to quote the first half, while forgetting the second half.
The point is that being “trained in love to God” is the discipline of being in God’s Word.
When you are in God’s Word your attitude will be righteous toward God who is Beloved and you attitude will be righteous toward everyone else!