The same Peter who courageously stood up for the gospel in the Book of Acts tells us in his first epistle that in this world we are “aliens and exiles,” and that we ought to “conduct [ourselves] honorably among the Gentiles [i.e., unbelievers], so that, though they malign [us] as evildoers, they may see [our] honorable deeds and glorify God when he comes to judge” (1 Pet. 2:11–12 NRSV). Peter goes on to write:
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. For it is God’s will that by doing right you should silence the ignorance of the foolish.
As servants of God, live as free people, yet do not use your freedom as a pretext for evil. Honor everyone. Love the family of believers. Fear God. Honor the emperor. (1 Peter 2:13–17 NRSV)
So, the Christian must use his freedom wisely and be honorable to his unbelieving neighbors as well as accept and respect the rule of law and the authorities put in place to protect it, all for the sake of the common good. In a liberal democracy, such as the United States, the Christian citizen has unprecedented access to the levers of power in comparison to his predecessors in the ancient and medieval worlds. Thus, Peter’s instructions, as well as the example set by the apostles in Acts, may have more practical application in our modern age than at any time in the 1500 years following the establishment of the first-century church.