URC Daily Devotion 11 July 2023

11 July 2023
1 Peter 2.11-14

Beloved, I urge you as aliens and exiles to abstain from the desires of the flesh that wage war against the soul.  Conduct yourselves honourably among the Gentiles, so that, though they malign you as evildoers, they may see your honourable deeds and glorify God when he comes to judge.

For the Lord’s sake accept the authority of every human institution, whether of the emperor as supreme,  or of governors, as sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to praise those who do right.

Reflection

Jesus showed us that we don’t need or want dominant worldly power to be disciples. Yet in both the United States and the UK, too many Christians succumb to the temptations of seeking, and exercising, levers of dominant power. 

Perhaps this is a desperate reaction to overall decline. Just above 60% of Americans identify as Christians, down from 90% in 1950. Under half of Britons identify as Christians, but fewer than 5% go to church. Yet even before that, culturally Christian assumptions were often given privilege in law. Not all of this was damaging—some seems very helpful—but some was used to justify enslavement, child labour, misogyny, abuse, and sexuality shaming. American and UK contexts have taught us time and again that enshrining our faith in law enforced by dominant power does not benefit the common good. It further isolates us from one another. Isolation is the antithesis of Christian faith.

A better way is to live as ‘resident aliens,’ as Peter encourages us in his letter. Jesus didn’t have dominant power. He had to demonstrate through words, deeds, and relationships that he was ‘the Way, the Truth, and the Life.’ He had to develop disciples who, with the gift of the Spirit, could carry this work of seeing, listening, and being with people, beyond him, in order to share the Gospel. He had to meet people where they were and show them that the image of God was reflected not only in them, but in every person they encountered. He didn’t enshrine anything in state law (indeed, the state crucified him). 
           
The tools of dominant power perhaps seem more out of reach as our numbers and secular influence decline. We shouldn’t get desperate. Instead, it’s perhaps now easier to avoid the temptations of manipulating systems of dominant power and focus on where Christ calls us: to be with people where they are, not expecting them to cross our doorstep. They might very well be Christ for us. We can be resident aliens known by our love. Thanks be to God, we don’t need state-backed dominant power and privilege to do that. 
 
Prayer

Holy One, you showed us that we don’t need or want dominant worldly power to be your disciples. Keep us from the temptations of exercising the levers of dominant power. Remind us that you have already equipped us to go, be with, and do ministry on the edges of society. Amen.

 

 

 

Today’s writer

The Rev’d Ryan Sirmons is is a former American naval officer and now minister of four URCs in Newcastle upon Tyne.

Copyright

New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

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