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TEXT: I Peter 2:17b
SUBJECT: Honor the King!
It has been said, "The Church is twenty years behind the world". What the world did in 1983, we do now; what the world is doing now, we'll be doing in 2023. The thought is none too flattering, but there's a lot of truth in it!
When I was a boy, most Americans had some respect for their political leaders. They didn't always agree with them, of course; they often voted against them, but they still held the President, Congressmen, and other leaders in high regard. If not the men, at least the offices they held. That was the rule forty years ago-for saints and sinners alike.
But then came Watergate. The President of the United States was proven to be a liar. Journalists jumped all over the man-and before long-it wasn't just the man they were jumping on, but the Presidency as well. This created the attack journalism we're so used to today.
At the time most Christians were appalled. Even those who didn't support Richard Nixon were shocked at the way people were talking about him, hounding him, treating him like dirt! It was a shameful thing-even if he's a crook, he's still the President! That's how most believers felt in 1973.
But times, they are a'changin! With the election of President Bill Clinton in 1992, believers joined the pack of howling dogs. We moved from respectful disagreement to ugly, vicious, and personal attacks. It took us twenty years to do it, but the Church caught up with the world.
We no longer respect our leaders-unless they're in the same party we are or implement the policies we support. But respecting our leaders because they are our leaders is a thing of the past for most Christians in America.
The change is not a positive one. For the Lord wants us to honor our leaders-even the ones we don't agree with. Are you willing to do that? Are you willing to turn off the radio talk shows, walk away from the gossip, and simply obey Jesus Christ because you are His disciple?
I hope you are. To help you do it, let's have a look see at the words of our text. They are simple, straightforward, and without a hidden meaning:
"Honor the king".
What does it mean to "honor the king"?
It means to revere him or to value him or to hold him in high esteem. The same word is applied to the respect you owe your parents and even the honor you owe God. Maybe the word we're looking for is respect.
And what about "honor the king"? We have no king in America, yet the word is not limited to a king, but it stands for all men in authority. We know this by comparing our verse to others very much like it. Just a few verses before, Peter says we're to
"Submit ourselves to every ordinance of man.whether to the king as supreme or to governors."
Paul makes the same point in Romans 13, where he lumps together kings, governors, judges, and even tax collectors, as "the governing authorities".
This means we're to respect all of our leaders-presidents, congressmen, judges, mayors, and so on down the line.
HOW TO SHOW IT
This is a tall order-considering the sort of men who occupy the places of power in America. Yet we must do it because the Lord says so.
How do we respect them?
Thankfully, we do not have to agree with everything they do. Surely, the king Peter had in mind was not a godly man and did many things the Church didn't like, yet he saw no contradiction between disagreeing with the king and honoring him.
Daniel and the Three Hebrew Children very much disagreed with the kings of Babylon, yet read their stories and you won't find a hint of disrespect for the pagan rulers.
No, respect does not demand agreement, but it does demand.well, respect. We need to think as highly of them as we can. If we cannot respect the men, let us respect the offices they hold.
It also means we have to speak well of them. We cannot vilify and ridicule our rulers with God's leave. He does not approve of it!
"Curse not the king, no not in your thoughts." (Ecclesiastes 10:20).
It also means we cannot read or listen to gossip about them. There is nothing wrong with reading the newspaper or studying policy, or voting or having opinions, but when the news becomes gossip and public debate becomes name calling, we need to fold up our papers and turn off our TVs. What the Puritan said of private gossip applies to public gossip as well:
"He who speaks gossip has a devil in his mouth; he who hears gossip has a devil in his ear".
I've never met a Christian who does not believe in honoring rulers--if they deserve it! But therein lies the rub. What kind of leader deserves your respect? All I want is a man who is honest, humble, wise, and puts the good of his people above his own reelection.
If these are the qualifications a leader must have to have our respect, then, very few-if any-will ever have it! Very few men have waded in the cesspool of politics and gotten out clean.
Including the Caesars of Imperial Rome. Yet it was these men Peter had in mind when he told his readers to "honor the king". If you know the history of Rome at all, you know the men who got to the throne were-without exception-bad men. Every one of them demanded worship for himself; most of them persecuted the Church and some of them were perverts! If you want to look up the names, start with Nero and Caligula!
Jesus Christ commands us to honor such men.
Why does He do this? Why would He want us to pay our respects to kings who are rotten to the core? Peter tells us why, but before we get to that, let's have a look at what Paul says about it. In Romans 13, he gives two good reasons for honoring bad kings:
This first point boggles the mind of many people. If God is good, how could He permit-no less put men-- like Nero or Hitler or Richard Nixon in places of power?
The short answer is: we don't know why He did it. But that's all right-we don't need to know and speculation often does more harm than good. We can be satisfied knowing that He put them there because He said so.
The second point is also very much doubted. But it too, is true. Read the Book of Judges and you'll see where the Libertarian Party wants to take us-"There was no king in Israel in those days and every man did what was right in his own eyes". That doesn't sound so bad-everyone did what he wanted to! Until you read the rest of the Book and find out what they wanted to do was to.worship idols, rob temples, rape young women, and then cut them up and send their pieces all over the country!
A few weeks ago I read a very fine book called From the Holy Mountain by a young man who traveled in the Middle East and looked in on the Christian communities in that part of the world. In Lebanon, he talked to people about the good old days before the Civil War of 1973. The Maronites ruled then and were notorious for their brutality: everyone hated and feared them! When they fell in 1973, the whole nation rejoiced! Until their bad government was replaced by no government at all. This led to civil war and mass murders and mass immigration far worse than any that occurred during the wicked rule of the Maronites.
We ought to respect our leaders because-even bad leaders are better than no leaders!
These are the two main reasons Paul gives for honoring our leaders.
But Peter gives three others:
When you hear the word, "lust" what comes to mind? I'm guessing it is not bad talking the President! Yet that very much is a fleshly lust! Jude says so-rebuking men who "are not afraid to speak evil of dignitaries".
Surely if men like Rush Limbaugh and Michael Savage do it, it cannot be a distinctly Christian thing to do. Do you want to be like the conservatives? Back in the 1970's John Robbins published a very fascinating article in a Christian journal titled, The Trouble With Conservatives. The trouble with them-he wrote-is the same as the trouble with liberals: they're not Christians!
But we are Christians! And we to think of how our actions and words reflect on our Savior. Was He a loud mouth? Did He ridicule Caesar? Did He blast everything Pontius Pilate ever did? If He chose the way of quiet respect, we have to make the same choice!
The best reason to honor our leaders is because Jesus Christ wants us to. Do you ever do an unpleasant thing for your wife's sake? For the kid's sake? For the sake of your friend? If you do, how much more are you obliged are you to honor the king for the Lord's sake?
To help you be more respectful, let me offer a couple of pieces of advice:
First of all, if the radio talk shows, the TV programs, the newspaper, and so on make it harder for you to honor the king, turn them off, quit reading them, step out of the conversation. I'd rather be uninformed, but obedient to Christ than very well informed, but disobedient.
I'm not passing judgment on anyone, nor am I issuing a law to bind your conscience. But, does listening to these things make you more respectful of our leaders or less?
In the second place, remember that our leaders-as bad as they are-are secretly carrying out the will of God. Thus, though we may deplore what they're doing, we can also be content that God is using them for His glory and for our good.
Knowing this won't make it easy to honor the rascals in office, but it will make it easier.
ONE LAST THING
One last thing: help your kids to honor our leaders. If they go to public school, they're bombarded with propaganda against the Republicans. If they go to Christian school-alas-they hear the same thing about the Democrats!
But you can help them respect our leaders by teaching it to them in the Word of God and showing them how its done by your own attitudes, words and actions.
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