Peter came a long way in his life.
In the Garden of Gethsemane, he was ready to take off the head of the high priest’s servant.
Flash forward a few years and he wrote, “Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human authority: whether to the emperor, as the supreme authority, or to governors ... For it is God’s will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish people ... Show proper respect to everyone, love the family of believers, fear God, honor the emperor” (1 Peter 2:13-15, 17).
There is no possible way to misunderstand or misinterpret these verses, which closely parallel the words of Paul in Romans 13:1-2, 5: “Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established ... Consequently, whoever rebels against authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves ... Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also as a matter of conscience.”
So, whatever is mandated by our civil/governmental authorities is binding on us as Christ-followers as long as it does not violate/contradict the higher authority of God’s Word. We would do well to keep this teaching by Peter and Paul during the COVID-19 pandemic.
In addition, we believers are also bound to submit to the servant authority of our local church elders. The writer of Hebrews was clear about our duty to defer to our congregational leadership in matters of opinion, especially when the possibility of division presents itself.
“Have confidence in your leaders and submit to their authority, because they keep watch over you as those who must give an account. Do this so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no benefit to you” (Hebrews 13:17).
Never in my lifetime have I seen a time when there was more to criticize in our civil leadership. I have been disappointed again and again in recent years with how our tax money has been carelessly spent and how damaging legislation has been thoughtlessly imposed.
But, I have not yet had to suffer under a Nero, an Attila the Hun, an Adolf Hitler or a Stalin. So, I can support our civil servants in prayer and submit, keeping in mind, it could be worse!
Never in my lifetime have I seen a time when there was more to divide over in the global Christian community or the local church. But, as Christ-followers, we are bound by the Word of God to submit to the congregational elders which we ourselves, by the way, have put in place to lead us.
We do this so that their role as spiritual shepherds will be a joy and not a burden. During this battle against the coronavirus, let’s keep our church leaders positive and encouraged by our verbal affirmation and visible support.
Ken Idleman is a Southeast member and former pastor of Crossroads Christian Church.