As we start off this new year I wonder what your thoughts are about politics. Yes, you read that right; politics. It's probably not your strong suit and what you do think about it is most likely negative. The average person does not put a lot of confidence in politicians, often seeing them as selfish or crooked. Yet, this is not the Biblical view that we are to take as followers of Jesus Christ. The Bible is very clear on what our attitude and actions are to be toward the authorities instituted by man:
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)
That's nicely summed up, isn't it? Poster quality quote; a twitter sized sound bite: "Love the brotherhood of believers, fear God, honor the king." It's a bit different from the attitude we sometimes show as we complain about taxes and government involvement in our lives. In fact, there are a lot of things we do as believers that do not match with the Word of God yet we consider to be a "God given" right. With the government we need to keep in mind who is the real power. The Word tells us that it is God who raises up and brings down the rulers and authorities.
I think that as believers we often times short change the power and authority of our God. We worship him in our churches but we try to leave him there. He has nothing to do with politics and what is taking place in our lands, at least that is what we demonstrate in our words and attitudes. But that is not what the Word of God teaches:
I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is like the working of his mighty strength, which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way. (Ephesians 1:18-23)
Do we sometimes forget who our God is? Jesus has been placed over all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. Now I know that I am messing around with some people's strong views on interaction with government and I am not saying that we should not voice our opinions to our governments but we need to allow God to take action. Look at the way he rescued his people from slavery. He did not cause the people to rise up in rebellion but he himself delivered them. Look at how he brought them out of captivity. He did not have them rise up against the authority but instead he softened the heart of the king. Look at what happened to Jerusalem when the Israelites tried to rescue themselves from the Romans; destroyed.
Now, allow me to tell you what our responsibility is toward the government whether we personally agree with their actions or not:
I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone— for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. (1 Timothy 2:1-2)
We are to pray for all our rulers at every level of government, understanding that they are God's servants, whether they see themselves as such or not. If they are doing harm then God will deal with them, whether by elections or in another form but he will deal with them. Meanwhile, under their rule, God has purposes far greater than we can fathom and we are to trust. In fact, we are to bless those who have rule over us. Consider this prayer for the king that we find in Psalm 20:
May he give you the desire of your heart
and make all your plans succeed.
We will shout for joy when you are victorious
and will lift up our banners in the name of our God.
May the LORD grant all your requests. (Psalm 20:4-5)
We may not always agree with our leaders and we may even want to be opposed to them but we must also keep in mind that we do not sit where they sit or walk in their shoes. We do not have all the information they have and they must govern for the benefit of all their people not just us. They are a special breed of men and women who set aside a normal life to live a life of service to the people, whether the people show gratitude or not. We need to pray not protest. We need to encourage not tear down. We need to support not destroy. We need to be Christians not activists.
We so easily forget the many lessons of the Bible that teach us that God does not see things as we see them or do things as we would do them. We admire men like Joseph who were treated unjustly yet honoured the authority wherever they were found, and in doing so God was able to do incredible things through them. Where there is rebellion, bitterness and hatred in the heart, there is no room for the mercy and grace of God. Where there is such attitudes there is also a lack of trust and faith in Jesus Christ. It may seem like a small matter for those of us not overly involved in the political world but it is a big matter for our God. Love the brotherhood of believers, fear God, honor the king.