The Christian and Liberty, pt. 3

Christians pray for political leaders in order to beseech the Lord of heaven to be left alone by governing authorities in order that Christians can live the righteous life to which God calls them. God “desires all people to be saved” (1 Tim. 2:4) and Christians whose government stays away from them are in the best position to facilitate the word of God being glorified and spreading rapidly (2 Thes. 3:1).

There is a second application. If Christians want their government to leave them alone, Christians should desire that it leaves others alone as well. A godly and dignified life is not one that unnecessarily concerns itself with the affairs of others. In his first epistle, Peter highlighted the inevitability of suffering in the life of the believer: “Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you” (1 Pet. 4:12). This echoes Paul’s claim that, “all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (2 Tim. 3:12).

Suffering and persecution will come but it is important that it comes to Christians for the right reasons and not as a result of actions that defame the person of our Savior.

“But let none of you suffer as a murderer or a thief or an evildoer or as a meddler” (1 Pet. 4:15). Suffering as a murderer, thief or evildoer is self-explanatory, it is the fourth category, meddler, which warrants more attention. The word Peter uses for meddler is allotriepiskopos, which is used only here in the entire Bible.  It is a combination of two words: allotrios, meaning “belonging to another,” and episkipos, “overseer.” Thayer’s Lexicon has this entry: “the writer seems to refer to those who, with holy but intemperate zeal, meddle with the affairs of the Gentiles — whether public or private, civil or sacred — in order to make them conform to the Christian standard.”  More simply defined, Frieberg says, “one who meddles in things that do not concern him.” Suffering that comes as a result of being a meddler is the same as suffering as a result of being a thief, murderer or evildoer. It is not to be commended.

Similar instructions are found elsewhere in the New Testament. Paul told the Thessalonian church to love each other (i.e. Macedonian Christians) “more and more, and to aspire to live quietly, and to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands, as we instructed you, so that you may walk properly before outsiders and be dependent on no one” (1 Thes. 4:10-12). When he wrote again, he chastised them because of reports he heard: “If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat. For we hear that some among you walk in idleness, not busy at work, but busybodies” (2 Thes. 3:10-11). A “busybody” is a “person officiously inquisitive about others’ affairs.”  Paul warned Timothy against accepting young widows on to the church’s benevolence rolls: “They learn to be idlers, going about from house to house, and not only idlers, but also gossips and busybodies, saying what they should not” (1 Tim. 5:13). There is clearly a strong line of commands within Scripture for Christians to work hard and to leave others alone.

The next part will examine some of the high moral standards which God has for His church. It is important to note here, however, that Christian morality is for Christians! A community of people will have its own standards of right and wrong that often overlap with what particularly concerns Christians but Christians should take care to ensure they haven’t become a meddler in the affairs of their neighbor. An over-reliance on governing authorities to enforce one’s individual standards on others has an unintended consequence of leaving an immense amount of power in the hands of those in authority. When the tide of secularism rises this power can end up being used against the very people who entrusted the authority to government in the first place.

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