How does a Christian behave in a nation of organized selfishness?

Emil Brunner, a Swiss theologian of the last century said something about governments that caught my attention.

He wrote, “The state is always organized selfishness.”

Rudy Ross introduced me to podcasts by Lex Fridman. In a recent YouTube discussion, Friedman and Paul Conti discussed narcissism.

Conti contends that the root of narcissism is envy. When we narcissism/envy is the main character trait of a national leader, the power they wield will always be detrimental to their subject and the world at large.

How does a Christian behave in a nation of organized selfishness?

Peter has a message for Christians who live in oppressive countries. He teaches principles that will insure that Jesus is glorified by his brothers and sisters.

For the Lord’s sake be subject to every human authority, whether to the emperor as supreme

Or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to praise those who do right (1 Peter 2.13-14).

The command to “be subject” is best understood as taking what is rightfully ours and yielding it to another.

Peter learned this principle directly from Jesus’ teaching.

Jesus said, “But I say to you: Do not resist an evildoer. But if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also,

And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, give your coat as well, and if anyone forces you to go one mile, go also the second mile” (Matthew 5.29-41).

Before religious and Roman authorities, Peter witnessed Jesus live the principle he taught.

He was oppressed, and he was afflicted,
yet he did not open his mouth;
like a lamb that is led to the slaughter
and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent,
so he did not open his mouth.
(Isaiah 53.7)

When Peter used his sword to defend Jesus, he was told, “Put your sword back into its place, for all who take the sword will die by the sword” (Matthew 26.52).

Peter knew what he was talking about when he advocated for Christians to surrender what was rightfully theirs as a witness to the greatness of God.

He learned it from the prophets, Jesus, and personal experience.

When Christians live this way, we show the world that our trust is in God, not in self-sufficiency.


What does such behavior accomplish? Peter has an answer.

For it is God’s will that by doing right you should silence the ignorance of the foolish (1 Peter 2.15).

The government may be “organized selfishness,” but it preferred to anarchy.

Countries such as Afghanistan, Mali, and Haiti are examples of where the government has lost control of the people.

These are three of the poorest nations in the world. Criminal gangs and warlords rule with ruthless power.

No matter the nature of the government, followers should live to silence the slander of people against Christians.

We are servants of God and should “live as free people, yet do not use your freedom as a pretext for evil” (1 Peter 2.16).

Martin Luther has excellent advice on how to use our freedom as servants.

He said, “A Christian is a perfectly free lord, subject to none. A Christian is a perfectly dutiful servant, subject to all.”

To Luther’s words we can add Peter’s summary: “Honor everyone. Love the family of believers. Fear God. Honor the emperor” (1 Peter 2.17).

YouTube Video

Rudy Ross and I continue our discussion of 1 Peter on YouTube. You can see the video on the Bob Spradling channel.

Please email your prayer request to The Maywood prayer team will pray for you.

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