(This is post #998. You only have this post and the next one to enter a comment and automatically qualify for all the books we’re giving away with the 1,000th post, probably sometime next week. See the September 20 and 21 posts for excruciating details.)
We’ll wrap up this week’s conversation as it relates to Christians and politics with a final look at Bryan Roberts’ article, “Seven Things Christians Need to Remember about Politics.” Roberts’ fifth thing to remember is “Scripture tells us to pray for our governing leaders (1 Timothy 2:1-4) and to respect those in authority (Romans 13:1-7). His main point in this paragraph is that “if you’re mocking your governing leaders on Facebook, you’re in sin and the Holy Spirit is grieved. We should spend more time honoring our leaders and less time vilifying them.”
Amen. No question about any of that. But let’s take it a bit farther. Let’s talk about our prayers.
Let me be clear in my belief that God’s Church is very political. We are committed to political thought and actions. But our politics are not of this world. We are citizens of a Kingdom that is not of this world. So do not do things the way the world does things; we do things the way Jesus does things. Not with power and force, petitions and votes; but with sacrifice and submission, love and service. Our politics are entirely different from this world’s politics.
So our prayers need to be bigger than just about the United States. God’s Church knows no national boundaries and neither does his Kingdom to which we belong. Yes, pray for the leaders who are elected in America. But also pray for the leaders and peoples of every nation around the globe. There are Christians in Iraq and Afghanistan; we have brothers and sisters in Iran and China. God is working in those places, too.
As for our congregations, I would suggest two things about our Sunday morning prayers together. If you’re leading a public prayer in your worship assemblies or Bible classes, why don’t you model something like this:
One, our prayers should be for God to work through those who are elected for his holy purposes. We shouldn’t be too overly concerned about who is elected; God’s people focus too much on the big picture to be too worried about that. Praying that the President will be impeached or that your particular candidate will be elected doesn’t count. And, in light of the politics of Jesus, it’s out of line. The prayer is that God will use them, whoever they are, for his purposes and to his glory and praise.
Two, we should pray as God’s people that we will always be submissive and obedient, that we will honor all those who are leaders of our cities, states, and countries, regardless of whether we agree with them or not. That means the rulers who hold office now and those who will hold office in the future. Romans 13 tells us that those who rebel against the government are rebelling against God.
Roberts’ sixth thing, “Don’t be paranoid,” is also very important for God’s people to remember during this political season. The United States is not going to be destroyed if your candidate loses. It’s not going to be the end of the world. We should all be clear by now that the individuals or parties in control of government actually have no control whatsoever. Our God is in control. He alone causes nations to rise and fall according to his eternal plans. That should fill us with great confidence, not anxiety. God has not given his people a spirit of fear, but of power and love and a sound mind. Stop being afraid. Besides, what happens when your candidate wins and, four years from now, all the same messes still exist? The messes in your life and in your state or country? Government doesn’t ever fix what’s ultimately wrong with this world.
And, Roberts’ seventh thing is closely related, “Stop saying, ‘This is the most important election in the history of our nation.'” I’ve heard this several times in the past few months. Almost daily, somebody in my own congregation will say it in my hearing or forward me an email declaring this to be the most critical election ever. Roberts claims the most important election in the history of the U. S. was when Abraham Lincoln was voted in as President. Before that, he reminds us, we thought it was allright to own people. Every generation always thinks it’s living in the most important moments in history. We’re not. Our parents weren’t. Our children won’t. And that’s OK. Claiming that this is the most important election of all time ignores all of ancient and recent history, heightens fear and paranoia, and puts too little faith in our God.
Let me close by repeating again what I think is a critical thing for us Christians to remember during this election season: Government doesn’t ever fix what’s ultimately wrong with this world; only God’s mercy and grace, his love and salvation through Christ Jesus, can ever repair and reconcile and produce lasting joy and peace.
“The most interesting, creative, political solutions we Christians have to offer our troubled society are not new laws, advice to Congress, or increased funding for social programs. The most creative social strategy we have to offer is the Church. Here we show the world a manner of life the world can never achieve through social coercion or governmental action. We serve the world by showing it something that it is not, namely, a place where God is forming a family out of strangers.” ~Resident Aliens
“The Church exists to set up in the world a new sign which is radically dissimilar to the world’s own manner and which contradicts it in a way which is full of promise.” ~Karl Barth