It is Submission, not rebellion that illustrates to the world the beauty of our Lord.
Babylon. That place, that world system which the Bible portrays as being, at its very core, in opposition to God. How do you make sense of the inevitable suffering that comes with living in a culture that is diametrically opposed to everything you believe in? When you are without political influence, misunderstood, falsely accused, slandered, shunned, reviled, assaulted and even physically abused, how do you make sense of it all? How ought Christians to respond to this type of environment? Is the answer to be found in some form of assimilation (Being A Christian In Babylon: Assimilation )? Maybe isolation is the key (Being A Christian In Babylon: Isolation ). I think it’s safe to say that we decided against those two responses. But we still have a third to consider before we go on to what I believe is the answer to being a Christian in Babylon. So, let’s take a look at rebellion. Should we simply overthrow Babylon and take over the whole shebang?
As with assimilation and isolation, you have to agree that rebellion had to possibly be one of the things that crossed the minds of the Christian communities to whom Peter had written back in the mid-60s AD. The suffering we are just now beginning to suspect may come our way was their everyday reality. Surely the thought of rebellion had to enter some of their minds. After all: “Peter, we are Christians. We know the truth and walk in the light. We could take over, infiltrate every facet of Babylonian culture, and use their own system to bring about righteousness and justice. How could we go wrong with Jesus as our King?” I’ll be that line of reasoning sounds eerily familiar to a lot of you. Hey, it doesn’t sound that far fetched, really. And it definitely would put an end to suffering. But Peter advised them and us against rebellion, and even counsels for a totally opposite response- submission.
Now, I realize that I just lost half of my American readers, but it is a disposition of submission (not rebellion) that Peter, that the Holy Spirit desires for Christians living in Babylon. Remember, Peter was writing to people living under the tyranny of Rome (Babylon). They had no say so whatsoever as to how things worked. Also, the culture in which these Christians lived had religiocultural activities in which they as disciples of Jesus could not participate. This made them outcasts of mainstream society. And in the midst of such tension, Peter says, “Submit.” Say it aint so. Peter, you can’t possibly mean that we are just supposed to take this abuse. Submit? You have to be out of your mind. Maybe they/we need to know what true submission is, and what it accomplishes.
Though Peter uses governments, slaves, wives, husbands, and the Church itself as examples of submission, it is Jesus he portrays as the ultimate example of submission:
“For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly. He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.”
Do you see it? I know it goes contrary to everything we (especially we Americans) have had ingrained in us, but this is the holiness of true submission, with all of its glorious consequences. If anyone has ever been “railroaded,” lied about, and falsely accused, it was Jesus. If anyone ever deserved to rebel, get a good lawyer, and stand up for himself, it was Jesus. If anyone ever had the right to organize protests, and bring to light the injustice that was being perpetuated against him, it was Jesus. But it was his submission that resulted in our very salvation. And this is how we are to respond to the injustice and suffering that we encounter being Christians in Babylon. We must view our suffering as reconciliatory, just like Jesus’ suffering. Like Jesus, wholly submitted to the Father, we stand for righteousness, truth and justice. And like him, we must also know that living such lives may cost us greatly. It cost Jesus his life. To the government that tells us that we can’t do such and such or that we must do such and such, and we know these actions to be contrary to what Jesus tells us, we say, “I must obey God rather than man, and I submit to whatever it is you feel that you must do.” It is submission, not rebellion that illustrates to the world the beauty of our Lord. And just as by his beautiful stripes we have been healed, our own suffering can be that which God uses to bring salvation to those around us.
Being a Christian in Babylon is not about assimilation, isolation, or rebellion; there’s another way. We’ve touched on it today, and next time we’ll see that it challenges our very concept of reality and identity.