It is safe to say we are living through a period of time where men are malcontent. Every city seems to be facing challenges both politically and fiscally. Some individuals are going to work wondering whether or not that will be their last hour of pay before they are let go. Thus, society appears to be in a constant state of turbulence, seeking to find the one entity to blame for all their problems. There is very little peace, and even less patience. Men riot against “The Man” and express all manner of invective speech against authorities, agencies, corporations, and their own fellow humans. While the world continues to “speak evil of whatever [it does] not know,” the Christian is to hold oneself up to a higher standard. Perhaps we could best define this higher standard as the Christian’s spiritual demeanor. How should one behave in the face of economic adversity or political upheaval? God teaches us through His word what He expects of a Christian as they interact with those in authority and their fellow man. In this article, we will explore this spiritual demeanor, and see how it should affect our relationship toward our fellow man, our employers, and finally our governmental authorities.
LIVE AT PEACE WITH ALL MEN
In Romans 12:18 we read, “if it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men.” God expects His children to pursue peace with all men (Hebrews 12:14). It should be our goal to be show peace toward all we come in contact with, whether they be our best friend or one seeking to take our life.
What though, do we mean by peace?
Jacob and his brothers provide us with a great example in Genesis 45:24. Jacob tells his brothers, “See that you do not become troubled along the way.” In other words, make sure you keep from quarreling, pursue peace with each other. Peace carries with it a certain civility. It seeks to be agreeable whenever possible, and always wants to avoid controversial conversation that avails nothing. As with love, it is willing to yield, in order that tranquility might rule the day.
How, then do we “live peaceably with all men”?
In chapters 18-20 of I Samuel we see King Saul throw a spear at David at least three times and at his own son at least once. Here was a wrathful man, sowing discord and strife. How do you suppose the other servants felt? There was probably quite a bit of “Am I next?” among them. Just blowing up in a fit of rage cannot allow peace with all men. Others hear our gruffness against an individual, and they begin to walk on egg shells around us, afraid they might be our next target. Proverbs 15:18 states, “A wrathful man stirs up strife, but he who is slow to anger allays contention.”
In order to live at peace with all men, we must train ourselves to be slow to anger. Mordecai was like this. In Esther 10:3 we read, “For Mordecai...was great among the Jews and well received by the multitude of his brethren, seeking the good of his people and speaking peace to all his countrymen.” Earlier in this account we see an attempt by some in the Medo-Persian empire to destroy the Jews. Though the attempt was not successful, we can imagine the contention and strife stirred up among the Jews against their rulers? Certainly it was not helpful in allaying contentions. Mordecai used his position as second in command to allay their contentions. He likely encouraged them to go about their lives again, reminding them that he had their interest at heart.
Similarly we are encouraged in Titus 3:2-3, “to speak evil of no one, to be peaceable, gentle, showing all humility to all men. For we ourselves were also once foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving various lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful and hating one another.” God desires that we move beyond the ideas of the world: disobedience, deception, lust, malice, envy, and hatred, and press toward the qualities of God: peace, gentleness, and humility. God wants his children to realize that they too have sinned, they too are His creation, and so they must show patience toward all men, just as He does.
WORK QUIETLY AND EAT YOUR OWN BREAD
Paul writes in II Thessalonians 3:11-12, “For we hear that there are some who walk among you in a disorderly manner, not working at all, but are busybodies. Now those who are such we command and exhort through our Lord Jesus Christ that they work in quietness and eat their own bread.” From the context of the rest of the book, it appears that the brethren at Thessalonica believed there was no need to work any more, because Christ was returning soon. This error in judgment lead to laziness and idleness. Paul reminds them that while he was with them he worked, “...to make ourselves an example of how you should follow us.” (II Thes 3:9) Instead of burdening the brethren (though verse 9 explains he had that authority), he left them and us with a great example. Paul did not walk about sulking that he wasn't being paid enough. He did not sit all day doing nothing, expecting to receive great gifts. Instead, we see him tell the brethren at Phillipi, “Not that I seek the gift, but I seek the fruit that abounds to your account.” (Philippians 4:17) Paul saw work as a positive in his life, and he accounted the blessings he received from working as a gift from God.
This is what Paul means by working quietly.
Work should be valuable to us, as adding positive blessings from God to our lives. We should see the payment from our work as a gift from God. Therefore, we are not to be stirring up strife with our employers. Instead, we should work peaceably, as if it were to God Himself. We ought not to complain about our work, because the Christian is to work quietly. We ought not to be spreading gossip, we have better work to do than involve ourselves in such frivolous activities. God expects us to work in such a way that we please both He and man: quietly going about our business serving God.
Paul also tells the Thessalonian brethren to eat their own bread.
He certainly did not mean for us to think that if we get invited over to someone's home we should remember to bring our own loaf. Instead the idea has to do with depending on others to supply our necessities. If we won't work, Paul instructs, “neither shall [we] eat.” (II Thessalonians 3:10) We're not sitting on our duffs looking for handouts. We work with our own hands, eating our own bread, because God wants to see us be hardworking, self-sufficient, and contented people.
HONOR THE KING
In I Peter 2:13-17 we read,
Therefore submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord's sake, whether to the king as supreme, or to governors, as to those who are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and for the praise of those who do good. For this is the will of God, that by doing good you may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men-- as free, yet not using liberty as a cloak for vice, but as bondservants of God. Honor all people. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the king.
God tells us here that we are to submit to our government for His sake. We don't submit to them because we think every policy is perfect. We don't submit to them because we see them as infallible beings. Rather, God says, “submit to them, for My sake.” Romans 13:1 explains, “...for there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God.” God appointed the framework which exists within our governmental structure. He allows men to receive power, and at points (see Daniel 4) He has removed men from that power. Therefore, we submit to government, because it is put into place by God for the benefit of man.
What, though, does it mean to submit?
Submission is a voluntary action one does by putting their own desires, ideas, and will underneath that of someone else. Consider a time when you might have stopped at a red light, even though there were no other vehicles in the vicinity. This was an act of voluntary submission. One could say, “No one will ever know.” One certainly has all the power to go through the light. Yet, staying at the red light shows one is absolutely willing to submit to the rules, even when one might not like them.
This is because Submission involves free will.
God desires that we submit out of our own free will. He has made us free, and He wants us to use that freedom for good works. Therefore, submitting to our governmental officials shows that we serve God. Verse 16 states, “as free, yet not using liberty as a cloak for vice.” If we are children of God, then our rightful citizenship is in heaven. That freedom does not preclude us from submitting to our government. Consider one who murders to take the vengeance of God into their own hands. The liberty in Christ Jesus was never intended to be used as a justification for disobedience and evil. God's will is that we freely choose to serve our nation's leaders, knowing that their authority comes from God and by serving them, we serve the one who gave them their authority.
Submission also involves respect.
Notice that I Peter 2:17 ends, “Honor the king.” God expects us not only to submit to our governmental authorities, but to also speak well of them. To give them the honor due. To treat them with deference. Our actions, our perspective, all must reflect a sense of honor toward those in authority. Regardless of whether they are good individuals. The power is theirs and they have that power by the will of God. Therefore, When men start to speak evil of our leaders or our laws, remember that your perfect Father in heaven authorized these men to serve as our nation's leaders. It is His will that we willingly submit to them and willingly honor them.
Whether it be men and women that we meet walking down the street, our boss at work, or the government, God wants us to show civility, respect, and give due honor. He wants us to be exemplary citizens, individuals that men look at and have nothing but good to say.
This is the spiritual demeanor. It is one who is always willing to yield. Always looking to spread peace. Always seeking after good things. Always quiet in its approach. Never spreading rumors. Shining its light so that all men may see that those who show such a demeanor worship the true God.
Are these passages reflective of our lives? Do we pursue peace with all men? Do we work quietly and eat our own bread? Do we honor and obey the government? If not, our lives reflect the fact that we do not serve God as we should. God is not well pleased with us in such a state. Make sure that you live peaceably, work quietly, and give due honor to the government. Hold to the higher standard, whether in times of peace and prosperity or times of war and severity. Trust in God, and serve Him in all facets of your life.