For it is God's will that by doing right you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish men. Live as free men, yet without using your freedom as a pretext for evil; but live as servants of God. Honor all men. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor. (RSV)
I have observed that doing right doesn’t silence the talk of foolish men in this world. I recently read an article on a very liberal web site that accused Christians of having an agenda to overtake the U.S. The means of doing this is by home schooling and private Christian schools. The claims are that Christians have been brainwashing the next generation and that we are the most dangerous of all factions. There was much name-calling in this article. It was written by the son of a well-known Christian theologian. He had been home schooled and advanced the very causes that he now rejects. If you think I’m just making this up, you can find the article at http://www.huffingtonpost.com/frank-schaeffer/glenn-beck-and-the-912-ma_b_284387.html.
In light of the current world, how am I to interpret these verses? I can only think that this must refer back to verse 12 where Peter says that they will glorify God on the day of visitation. Certainly, Jesus predicted that we would be maligned and even worse. John 15:20-21 “Remember the words I spoke to you: 'No servant is greater than his master.' If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also. They will treat you this way because of my name, for they do not know the One who sent me.” (NIV) I have a feeling that the foolish men will not be silenced until Jesus comes back.
In the mean time I need to live a free man. So what does that mean? Jesus said in John 8:31-36 that the truth will set me free. The Jews were shocked just as the people of the world are shocked at Christian behavior. They didn’t consider themselves slaves just as non-Christians don’t consider themselves as slaves to sin. But that is exactly what Jesus was said.
So I need to live free from sin. Some read into Paul’s writings that my freedom includes freedom from the Law and that is true. However I capitalized that word Law to limit Its meaning to encompasses the Levitical law of sacrifices and all that went with it. Regarding sin, Paul said in Rom 6:15 What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means! (NIV ) When I live free from sin and the law, I live by God’s standards, which are even higher. That is why Peter added that I must live as a servant of God.
In conclusion, this requires me to honor all men. It doesn’t give me the right to abusive speech toward anyone in private or public. If someone is wrong, I can still point that out, not with name-calling, but with carefully researched truth.
I must also love the brotherhood – meaning that I am to love all Christians. I can’t pick and choose which Christians I am to love based on their denomination. Again, that doesn’t mean I have to condone heresy or bad doctrine that is taught in some denominations, but I am to love true believers.
Finally, I need to honor the king, emperor, president, prime minister, governor, mayor, or whoever is leading the country, state, city, or county. That means that I need to treat them with the respect that is due their office. If they are in the wrong, I can still point that out, but in the same way as mentioned before.