I have been studying 1 Peter the past few months while observing sweeping political and cultural changes in North America. Evangelicals are continually finding themselves on the outside looking in through these changes. Our noses are pressed against the window watching a theater of activity that feels all to unfamiliar to us, This should not surprise us. For years the position of the evangelical church has been from the borderland of the public square and not the town center the church once occupied. But the speed of change the past couple of years has been mind-blowing. For example, I certainly did not foresee a transgender restroom law for public space on the political agenda. Nor did anyone seemingly anticipate the cultural conditions that have cultivated an uncertain leadership future for one of the world’s greatest countries.
The church continues to struggle with how to respond to these sweeping changes. We are citizens of heaven but also citizens of earth and citizenship requires a reasonable response. So in a culture that continues to change and create an unfriendly context for the gospel what should the response of the church be?
I have been challenged with Peter’s response in 1 Peter. In the midst of an unfavorable context for the gospel he promotes submission. His words were not written to Christian citizens in a democracy but to Christians under emperor rule, some whom were enslaved. How does a Christian respond when cultural conditions are not favorable, when they don’t have a strong voice in the public square, and when they are ridiculed and maligned for following Jesus Christ?
In the face of suffering the Christian chooses submission.
This truth conjures so many emotions. I certainly do not believe that the church should give up trying to influence the development of public policy through public debate. We should continue to struggle for God’s righteousness. His ways are always the best ways. But it is becoming increasingly clear that the spirit of anti-Christ is growing stronger and stronger and short of a massive revival in the church and a Christ centered spiritual awakening in the hearts of the lost it will become increasingly more difficult to follow Jesus in the public square of North America.
Our learned response must be the same as Jesus Christ. 1 Peter 4:1 says, “Since therefore Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves with the same way of thinking.” When Christ suffered in the face of darkness it was his submission that was brightest. 1 Peter 3:15-17 says, “but in your hearts honor Christ that Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for the reason for the hope that is in you, yet do it with gentleness and respect, so that when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame. For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God’s will, than for doing evil.”
I love a fighting heart but in the face of suffering for the gospel a submissive spirit is more powerful. The light shines brighter in the darkness. These are great days for the power of the gospel. Submission is our gospel response.