Pastor Rich Knight
Central Congregational Church
July 2, 2023
One thing to note: in the first verse we’re going to look at, Peter is quoting Exodus 19:6 – “You will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.” Peter knew his Bible, which for him was the OT.
I Peter 2:9-17
But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people, in order that you may proclaim the excellence of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.
10 Once you were not a people,
but now you are God’s people;
once you had not received mercy,
but now you have received mercy.
11 Beloved, I urge you as aliens and exiles to abstain from the desires of the flesh that wage war against the soul. 12 Conduct yourselves honorably among the gentiles, so that, though they malign you as evildoers, they may see your honorable deeds and glorify God when he comes to judge.
13 For the Lord’s sake be subject to every human authority, whether to the emperor as supreme 14 or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to praise those who do right. 15 For it is God’s will that by doing right you should silence the ignorance of the foolish. 16 As servants of God, live as free people, yet do not use your freedom as a pretext for evil. 17 Honor everyone. Love the family of believers. Fear God. Honor the emperor.
Before I get into my message this morning, let me first comment on the last section of this passage. Vs. 17 – Honor the Emperor – a good example of how every passage must be understood in its context.
This was written during a time when Christians were not being widely persecuted.
Peter’s trying to keep it that way. “Honor the Emperor.” By the time we get to the Book of Revelation, the church is being fiercely persecuted, so the Apostle John gives the Emperor Domitian the mark of the Beast, 666.
The last section of the passage also says, “Be subject to every human authority.” That was sound counsel in Peter’s day, but it wasn’t God’s word to Moses- he challenged the authority of Pharoah. “Let my people go!” It wasn’t God’s Word to Amos and Hosea and Isaiah, who challenged the Kings, the judges, and the governments to do what is right and just.
So, every passage has to be interpreted and understood within its context. By the way, this is not a liberal/progressive view. Even very conservative scholars teach the same thing.
Well, on to today’s topic . . .
I’d like to speak with you just briefly this morning on the subject, “The Responsibility of Freedom.”
I saw an interview this week with Harrison Ford, as he’s promoting his latest Indiana Jones movie. During the interview he was asked about his flying. As you probably know, Ford has flown airplanes for years and has had a few real life adventures in airplanes, including having to make an emergency landing on a golf course once. The interviewer asked him what he loved most about flying. He said this: “It’s a blend of freedom and responsibility. If you take the responsibility, you gain the freedom.”
“If you take the responsibility, you gain the freedom.”
That’s what Peter is saying to the recipients of his letter. “If you take the responsibility, you gain the freedom.”
Peter said, Live as free people, yet do not use your freedom as a pretext for evil.” (vs. 16)
NIV translation – Do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil.
- Other translations say, “as an excuse for sinning.”
The Living Bible puts it this way: You are free from the law, but that doesn’t mean you are free to do wrong. Live as those who are free to do only God’s will at all times.
That really gets at the context of the passage, especially “free from the law.” Peter is writing to Gentile Christians in the First C., and by this time it’s been decided that the Gentiles (non-Jews) don’t have to become Jewish in order to become Christians. In other words, they didn’t have to live by all the laws of the Old Testament – dietary restrictions, various rituals & sacrifices, and so on. They were free from the law . . . but that did not mean that they were free to do whatever they pleased – it doesn’t mean they’re free to ignore decency, morality, kindness and love. Because freedom isn’t just a right. It’s a responsibility. It comes with responsibility. And, “If you take the responsibility, you gain the freedom.”
William Barclay, commenting on this passage wrote this:
“Christian freedom is always conditioned by Christian responsibility. Christian responsibility is always conditioned by Christian love. Christian love is a reflection of God’s love.”
In our faith, especially in our expression of the faith, we are not legalists. We believe there is a freedom in Christ, freedom in our walk with God. God and the church do not give us 600 rules to live by. God gives us the scriptures, the Holy Spirit, and each other to figure out how we should live. It will look different for each one of us, but we try to figure it out in community with each other and in communion with God.
I grew up in an area and at a time when there were some churches that had a lot of rules – Christians shouldn’t dance. Christians shouldn’t listen to popular music. Some believed that Christians shouldn’t even listen to Christian pop/rock music. I got in my share of arguments over that one. Years ago, some churches didn’t want their members to go to movies, read secular books, drink alcohol, or even play cards.
Thankfully, most churches don’t have a list of do’s and don’ts like that anymore. But that doesn’t mean that God doesn’t have high expectations for us – of course God does!
Freedom isn’t just a right. It’s a responsibility! As Christians, our responsibility is to love!
“Christian freedom is always conditioned by Christian responsibility. Christian responsibility is always conditioned by Christian love.
Here’s a silly example, based on a
Illustration. I often arrive back at the church by coming down Fletcher St. and I end up right across the parking lot, at the corner of North Rd. & Fletcher St. to cross over into our parking lot, I get in the left lane. And often you have to wait for a while for it to be clear both ways. And what often happens while you’re waiting? An SUV, van or truck pulls up next to you and blocks your view of southbound traffic!!!
Now, that’s perfectly legal, but it’s not helpful, not kind, not going the extra mile; it’s not thoughtful and loving!
In I Corinthians 10, the Apostle Paul wrote, 23 “All things are permitted,” but not all things are beneficial. “All things are permitted,” but not all things build up. 24 Do not seek your own advantage but that of the other . . . So, whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do everything for the glory of God. (vs. 31)
Illustration. I can’t help but think of one of the decisions that the Supreme Court handed down this week. That it’s okay for a web designer to refuse to build a web site for a same-sex couple. Noone’s ever asked! It turned out to be purely hypothetical!
Even if somehow the Supreme Court got it technically correct – which is a big assumption – that doesn’t make it the right thing to do – to discriminate against someone based on who they are, based on their identity. That seems to me to be a terrible thing to do, and simply a bad look for Christianity.
By the way, this is not a political issue for me. It’s certainly not a partisan issue. It’s about people – our friends, family members, and fellow parishioners!
One more illustration/application . . .
Illustration. I think about this verse when it comes to legalized marijuana and kids. I worry that kids don’t realize that what might be okay for adults (I understand the many applications of medical marijuana) but it’s harmful for young people up through their mid-20’s, as their brains are still developing.
Years ago, in another church, I had youth group kid at another church who I found out smoked pot almost every day. He was quite bright, and got into a good college, but I couldn’t help but think, we may not ever know how bright he could have been because of all the damage he had done to his developing brain.
“All things are permitted,” said Paul, “but not all things are beneficial.”
“Do not let your freedom be an excuse to sin,” said Peter.
In the end, Indiana Jones was right: “If you take the responsibility, you gain the freedom.”
Think about it.