love in such a way that the person you love feels free.
—thich nhat hanh
Yoga with the punk nugget, Noomi. She gets excited when I have playtime.
Also working Firefly, but my hamstrings are so short…
I’ve been going through 1 Peter casually as a word study and philosophy-applied-to-theology exercise, and interestingly enough the passage of 1 Peter 2 where Peter talks about submission to authority came up last week in the message on marriage I heard in church. I decided to dig a little deeper into what submission to authority looks like in any situation, and what causes a lack of submission in the natural human condition. This is a little collection of my thoughts on the whole thing, if you’re interested.
‘Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every authority instituted among men: whether to the king, as the supreme authority, or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right. For it is God’s will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish men. Live as free men, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as servants of God.
Show proper respect to everyone: Love the brotherhood of believers, fear God, honor the king.’ 1 Peter 2: 13-17
First of all, I would like to point out that Peter does not say “Submit to the authorities you agree with.” He is very specific about how, as representatives of the kingdom of God, we are responsible for submitting to EVERY authority that is put over us by God. As the political and authoritative situations in our country and around the world become more and more corrupt, we might argue that this is impossible to do to the glory of God. However, the people Peter wrote to in this book were governed by a pagan king and believers were already being harshly persecuted for their faith (empire-wide persecution hadn’t begun yet). Thus, one can humbly realize that although it can be extremely difficult to submit to rulers that we do not agree with or like, we are called by God to respect them to his glory.
That being said, this does not mean that we are permitted to sin, if the authority in question commands it, but in every instance we can submit to the authority that does not compromise our faith-based standards, we should do this joyfully as an act of obedience to God. When Peter advises us to “Live as free men,” he is not telling us that because we are believers we are free of or above the authorities who have been placed over us on earth. The word he uses in reference to “free men” is the Greek eleutheros, which is the same word used in John 8:32 to talk about freedom from sin. As believers, we are free in an eternal perspective from the bondage and consequences of sin through the sacrifice of Christ. This does not mean in any way that we will escape bondage or persecution on earth. While this causes a lot of believers to submit in discontent to earthly rule, the privilege of an eternal perspective should allow us to realize the privilege we have in submitting to authorities, because as we obey God we are representing him and building up our reward in heaven.
So why do so many believers, even those who are well-aware of their position in God’s kingdom, have such a hard time submitting to earthly authority? One can logically speculate that if there’s a problem submitting to earthly authority, there is probably an issue ultimately with submitting to God’s authority. Going deeper than that, I see so many believers treat authority as “the enemy,” and pour themselves into movements and rallies and other campaigns to overthrow authority, spending astronomical amounts of time, money, and energy trying to rearrange the system and protest injustice. While this can be a good thing and a positive thing, more often than not I see it spiral into an obsession with causes, and also with “sticking it to the man” and defeating the opposing side. When this fails to work and all their efforts are in vain, there is this harsh dissent and inward rebellion against the authority that ultimately, GOD has chosen to be above them. Peter directly opposes that when he exhorts, “Show proper respect to everyone: Love the brotherhood of believers, fear God, honor the king.”
There are other extremes too. I struggle at times with being apathetic about earthly authority. Frankly I don’t see the situation politically or religiously improving in our world to any major extent, because we live in a dying world and from an eternal perspective, the only thing that matters is our individual impact. This might sound cynical or resigned to my lot in life, but after doing this study, I am seeking to balance it with joyful obedience to authority wherever I can.
What are your thoughts on submission to authority, from an eternal perspective? Are there any other verses that have helped balance your attitude on respecting the authorities God has placed over you in your life?
when you’ve been under the weather for over a week, and have finally regained enough energy to do whatever yoga you want like you always do.
Ahhh. So great to have my body back. Kinda tight from basically bumming for ten days under the duress of actually lacking the energy to do anything but work. That will ease up in a day or so though.
Guess I tend to take my strength for granted sometimes!
Stayed after class to help another student work on crow. He held it for longer than one breath, which was a record for him, so that was really exciting. Seriously leaning towards this official teaching thing, guys.
It always amazes me, as I’m sure it does everyone else, how quickly an entire year goes by in my life. As I get older and level up in the world, it flies by even faster and leaves me spinning as I try to gather my thoughts and put the last twelve months into perspective.
While I don’t obsess over tradition I do appreciate and utilize certain seasons in time to set milestones and goals, mostly relating to my growth and development as a young adult and a well-rounded person. I hold strongly that if you do not know what’s going on in your self, you are jeopardizing your growth as an individual—and since life is definitely not static, you don’t want to be stuck.
‘For as only one thing is necessary, and as the theme of the talk is the willing of only one thing: hence the consciousness before God of one’s eternal responsibility to be an individual is that one thing necessary.’
—Soren Kierkegaard, from ‘Purity of Heart is to Will One Thing,’ 1847
The Danish philosopher Soren Kierkegaard talks a lot about the value of inwardness and of being a single soul before God. That solitude and accountability has been exponentially important in this last year to keep my mind and heart in perspective when my world has been tossed and flipped and otherwise completely mixed around.
January 2012 I set down three fundamental concepts, or life lessons, that I wanted to be mindful of as I moved through life. The irony in this is that the more I try to organize and otherwise control abstract areas of my life the more God gives me situations in which to relinquish that need for control. I guess I figured I’d be in for it if I set these down—and I wasn’t disappointed in the least.
John 15 is a chapter I find myself gravitating towards a lot. Beyond all of the ‘greatest commandment is love’ stuff in there, Jesus also paints a very powerful picture of how God helps us grow as believers. Verse 4 says, ‘Remain in me (Jesus) and I will remain in you. no branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.’
If my source is in Christ I am a part of something bigger than myself: I am a representation of that and therefore responsible for growing. When there are areas of my life that do not bear fruit, I want God to cut those out so I have more room to grow in a new direction. This was the first life lesson I wanted to keep in mind: I am responsible for my own growth. I always want to be growing in all areas of my life, never getting complacent or staying in the safest place. Outside of that safe place is where the real progress happens.
The second is related to and basically necessary in the application of the first lesson. Sometimes to grow you need room, and to make room you need to let go of things. These things are not limited to possessions—they include habits, unhealthy emotional patterns, and sometimes even people. Verse 2 says, ‘He (God) cuts off every branch in me that does not bear fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful.’
This in particular has been a painful lesson for me to practice. I have a hard time letting go. The hardest concept for me to accept in this verse is that not only can God cut out parts of my life that bear no growth, but he will also prune the growing parts to refine them and guide them towards him more. The work doesn’t stop with starting a new direction or phase; you’ve got to see it through and keep building on it in order to truly live a life that is positive and honoring to him. It starts with you, in every choice and thought you make, but if your heart and your source are in Christ you will never walk unguided.
He knows what it is like to let go of things that he loves, because it is right, too. I’ve been given a lot of opportunities this year to let go. There is a lot of new space in my life because of this, though, and that is something I no longer fear but view with anticipation for the next big adventure.
Finally, I remember looking at the previous year as 2012 started and wishing that I was more at peace with the potential of the time to come. It’s kind of an elusive concept in someone who takes life (often too) seriously; my instinctive reaction when things get crazy has been to panic and lose sight of where I’m at. But this year, God honored my desire to find peace in him by giving me a LOT of chances to practice searching for it, in big things and little things, and even in my recently acquired job adjustment.
As I surrendered to his peace and sovereignty, I found so many areas of my life exploding with growth and vibrancy. It continues to amaze and humble me to realize how much I was given last year. The hardest part was being obedient enough to realize what space I needed to make to accept so many blessings. Among the areas of growth I still had a fair amount of dull, wasted time as well. Some of these lessons and opportunities took me a while to recognize and reconcile.
Looking back, however, I am content with how I’ve changed and how much I am continuing to grow. There are so many exciting and kind of scary potentials looming in the future and I am looking forward this year with excitement for what adventures are to come!
I hope 2013 has begun to greet you with exactly what you need, whether it’s peace, love, a much-needed break or a challenge so you can hit the ground running as we move into a New Year. Thank you to everyone who has made an appearance in my life. Whether we bump into each other often is irrelevant to the significance of your existence to me.