For the first 300 years or so, the Christian Church faced persecution in many places throughout the Roman Empire. The persecution of Christians started in Jerusalem. The religious leaders of the day persecuted “The Way” (as it was called then) because it clashed with their traditional beliefs and practices.
As the Christians spread in other places, persecution came for two major reasons: refusal to worship the Emperor; economic concerns.
Remember the persecution of Paul in Philippi (Acts 16:19); and his persecution in Ephesus (Acts 19:21ff).
Later the Christians were persecuted because they were considered to be the cause of every disaster that struck the Empire. Christians were given the legal right to worship in A. D. 313 by Constantine (Edict of Milan).
Peter was writing to a church that, most likely, went through a time of persecution. From a worldly point of view, the Christians were a kind of weird people (1Peter 4:4). Not anymore.
He calls them to be good “citizens”. “Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us” (1Peter 2:12).
Peter calls every Christian to submit to every human authority: the emperor as the supreme authority and to the governors whose primary task is maintain the social order. Christians are to submit to the ruling authorities as they rule for the common good (because that is their mandate…their job).
One sentence in Peter’s letter gives us something to think about. “Live as free men, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as servants of God” (1Peter 2:16). In other words, “Live as free men in the world but under God’s complete authority.” God has absolute power over us. No other human agency…no angel…no spirit…not the devil. No one else. The bottom line for us is: ”Love the brotherhood of believers, fear God, honor the king” (v.17).
Let us live as free men and women under God’s authority!