Living in a Fallen World
The Bible is full of remarkable statements. One of the most remarkable is 1 Peter 2:17. Peter is instructing Christians how to live in an essentially Godless, anti-Christian society. He writes, ‘Honour everyone. Love the brothers. Fear God. Honour the emperor’. This is surely remarkable. Love the brothers and fear God we can readily understand; but honour ‘everyone’ and especially ‘the emperor’? The emperor in question was probably Nero, the fanatically anti-Christian megalomaniac. Honour him? God’s word can be deeply unsettling.
You do not need much imagination to see how relevant Peter’s words are to Christians in the UK today. We live in an increasingly hostile, anti-Christian, really anti-Christ, nation. Christian values are trampled on and Christian beliefs mocked and penalised. It is not fanciful that in the near future, preachers will be arrested for proclaiming the absolute uniqueness of Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour, and for teaching the moral ethics of God’s word. Thus it was, and worse, in the days when Peter wrote, ‘Honour everyone. Honour the emperor’.
This leaves us asking the question, How are Christians to live today in post Christian, anti-Christian Britain?
First, humbly confident that the Lord God omnipotent reigns . I don’t mean, of course, that we should not grieve deeply over the tragic state of our nation. Nor do I mean that Christians should not repent and cry out to the Lord. With Daniel we should always be saying, ‘Lord, we have sinned and done that which is evil in your sight’. But, in the midst of our moral and spiritual tragedies, our God reigns. He has not been caught unawares by the sin that scars the face of our nation. Wonderfully, if mysteriously to us, he ordains all that comes to pass and does so sinlessly, wisely, and purposefully. God’s sovereignty is a gloriously comforting truth.
Second, absolutely assured that the Saviour will not lose one of the sheep for whom he died. Nothing and no-one can hinder our Lord Jesus from saving and bringing safely to glory his blood-bought Bride. Is this not a glorious truth, a reassuring truth, and above all a cause to praise our God no matter the circumstances that defile and deface our nation?
Third, seeing the enemies of God and the gospel as men and women God loves and holds out his arms to save (Ezek.33:11). God takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked. He even pleads with them to lay aside their enmity, to repent and come to his Son Jesus Christ. God is rich in mercy and so also must his people be. We are to love our enemies and do them good and not harm. We are to pray for them and go out of our way to win them to Christ.
Fourth, remembering that we were all once children of God’s wrath like the rest, until he had mercy on us (Eph.2:3-4). You and I were once dead in trespasses and sins. We were blinded by the God of this world to the light of the gospel of the glory of God in Christ.
Fifth, remembering that it is God the sovereign Lord who raises up and who brings down. David Cameron and Barak Obama and Vladimir Putin are where they are not ultimately because they were voted into power, but because the living God appointed them to their respective positions. The most high God rules in the kingdoms of men, so the Bible assures us. History is not ultimately shaped by the wicked deeds of bad men, though they are absolutely culpable for their actions. But behind the wicked deeds of bad men ‘a deeper magic’ is at work (for those of you who know C. S. Lewis).
So, how are Christians to live in a fallen world? Humbly, holily, confidently, and prayerfully. Evil has its day, a day appointed by God. But one day God will bring all evil to an ultimate account, cast the devil and all who are his into the eternal fire that will never die, and gather his believing people into his eternal glory. ‘Honour everyone. Love the brothers. Fear God. Honour the emperor (PM, President, or whoever).
Ian Hamilton is Pastor of Cambridge Presbyterian Church, now worshipping God on Sunday mornings in Queen Emma Primary School, Gunhild Way, Cambridge and in Resurrection Lutheran Church, Huntingdon Road, on Sunday evenings.
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