Spend more than 2 minutes on social media and you are guaranteed to run into a political statement and it is usually negative, critical, and full of contempt. In this time of polarized politics it can be difficult, no matter your persuasions, to respect those in office whose actions are so obviously motivated by party loyalty and power rather than national interest. For Christians, who belong to Christ above all, we do something very wrong and damaging to the work of the Lord when we hold leaders in contempt because of slavish loyalty to the ‘other’ side.
Peter, who had his own struggles with the Empire, commands us to “Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every authority instituted among men: whether to the king, as the supreme authority, or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right. For it is God’s will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish men. Live as free men, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as servants of God. Show proper respect to everyone: Love the brotherhood of believers, fear God, honor the king.” (1 Peter 2:13-17, NIV)
Throughout the Scripture, there is a common thread of truth when it comes to authority, something that eludes many of us who have been trained to question and resist. Christians are to have the humility required to accept that authority is ultimately given by God. Like all of God’s gifts, leadership and authority can be twisted and misused. Those in power can become oppressive and unjust, and often do! But, those of us who are Christ’s, though we are completely free in Him, are to be the best citizens, honorable and respectful of the office. Even our resistance to immoral policies of government is to be expressed with humility and respect. I am quite aware that many in our government today make that a very difficult choice.
We need to take a lesson from David and his relationship with King Saul. He would not move against the king, even when urged to do so; even when circumstances seemed to indicate that he had opportunity to take the throne promised to him by God. He saw Saul, though flawed, as a man in the hands of God. Faithfully he saw the sinful man as “God’s anointed!” That did not mean that David accepted every terrible thing Saul did in his times of insane jealousy as right or good. But, he trusted God, in His time, to remove the one who was in power. He also had the courage to speak truth to power, which he did repeatedly, but never with threats, never with hate, never with disrespect.
No matter your political leaning, Christian, take a moment to consider your reactions to the ‘other’ side and the representatives of policies you find abhorrent. You may find this simplistic, but pray before you repost that picture that demeans, before you make a personal attack. There is a way to respectfully express disagreement with those who hold office – be it local, state, or national. There is nothing wrong with spiritual debate, but the moment we cross the line into disrespectful mocking of the person we err.
Leadership is not easy – not for anyone who must make hard decisions! If we become angry, critical, and disrespectful – our actions can obscure the Gospel of Christ. That is the worst kind of mistake. So, let’s not conveniently forget Paul’s teaching about our responses those who are given the reins of authority.
Here is a word from the Word. “I urge you, first of all, to pray for all people. As you make your requests, plead for God’s mercy upon them, and give thanks. Pray this way for kings and all others who are in authority, so that we can live in peace and quietness, in godliness and dignity. This is good and pleases God our Savior, for he wants everyone to be saved and to understand the truth.” (1 Timothy 2:1-4, NLT)
How about starting now by praying for that person in office with whom you disagree most. Really, pray wisdom over them. Pray for the truth to be known, for God, the Holy Spirit, to move in the minds and hearts even of those who seem to be ignorant of His ways. “Prayer changes things” and people, too.
Jesus has torn down all the dividing walls that separate human beings. He prays that His followers— all of us – from the political left and the political right—will live as one, with unity brought about by the Spirit. Our love demonstrates to our world that we are His disciples