November 7, 2014.
In the midst of these midterm elections, I can’t help but notice the heightened amount of political statements being may either in favor or opposition of the results. I must say that I don’t particularly like this part of the year (or every two years, I guess) due to the increase in fighting and bickering, and perhaps even more so the highly annoying and frustrating political advertisements that serve no other purpose than to put the opposing candidate down. I actually got so mad at one of the radio commercials that I had heard several times that I yelled at my radio and changed the channel (no worries, I was the only one in the car and my radio knew I wasn’t actually mad at it).
The political fallout comes from all sides, too. It’s not just one group of people who are very vocal and passionate about the outcomes of the election, both before and after the polls closed for the night. I have heard things over the years from conservatives, liberals, Christians, non-Christians, men, women, minorities, majorities, republicans, democrats, ect. It seems that every one has an opinion, as can be expected, and feels the need to voice their opinion. Yes, I have an opinion too (though most of my opinion is what I’m addressing here today), and I don’t think there is anything wrong with political leanings or your right to vote. I encourage participating in this civil duty as an informed citizen, as it is one of the best ways to let your opinion be known.
But here’s where I find the problem with politics and the way some cling so tightly to it. Listen to Paul’s admonishment to Timothy in his first epistle to the young leader.
“First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way.”
(I Timothy 2:1-2)
I suppose the first thing that this passage addresses is the principle that we are to pray for our leaders and respect them no matter who they are. That doesn’t mean that we are to transgress the command of God if they tell us to do so, but to pray for them in order that we might live quite and peaceful lives. Now, how many statuses do you see from Christians that are respectful and praying for the success of a political figure who just got elected into office who was not who the person voted for? I suppose I could let it slide if there were simply no statements made at all by giving the benefit of the doubt that there were private and intimate prayers made, but unfortunately I often see the exact opposite. I haven’t seen much negativity this election because the results were generally in favor of the conservative Christian (though that is a very broad generalization), but I have in times past when the results went the opposite way. If we are speaking out against our rulers (when really they haven’t even done anything yet), are we really submitting to the will of God?
Now, you might say, “But the leaders who I was opposed to winning would have not been good for Christianity.” I must remind you, then, of the historical context in which Paul was writing. They were under Roman rule, a nation that was generally not a fan of Christianity until the time of Constantine. Whereas there might not have been direct persecution of Christians at the time that Paul penned this letter (there might have been, I don’t know), there would be soon after. Do you think Paul’s words would only be true for a few years? Or do you think that this was a lasting principle? After all, Paul was writing by inspiration. I think it was revealed to him what was going to happen soon with the Roman empire and the war on Christianity, so to speak. Are you going to tell me that the leaders in Paul’s day were Christians, or would at least make decisions based on biblical truths? Of course not! Yet Paul still tells Timothy to pray for the leaders.
He also tells the church in Rome to abide obey the governing authorities, as they were given that power from God (ref. Rom. 13:1). Does that mean that they would always make good decisions? No. Did that mean that Timothy would never have to oppose the law of the land if it went against the law of God? Sure he would. But they were given the power to rule from God, and Timothy (as well as all Christians) were to be subject to them.
But the second thing this verse addresses is something that I think we skip over all too often. No matter how we feel about the results, we are supposed to strive to live a quiet and peaceful life, godly and dignified in every way. The political fallout that I see is anything but quiet and peaceful, and it is often far from godly or dignified. I ask you again, if Christians of the first century were given the choice as to who the political leaders would be, do you think they would have chosen Caesar? Of course not. But Paul’s words still stood, and they still stand today. Our goal should be to live quite, peaceful, godly and dignified lives. It is hard to do so when we are squabbling about political issues, whether complaining or bragging about the outcomes.
There is a deeper issue here. Why are we to strive to live this kind of life? Paul goes on:
“This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.”
(I Timothy 2:3-4)
We must remember our calling. We must look at the big picture. God is not concerned about the political dealings of this world beyond the effect that they will have on people’s souls. God is concerned about souls. We should be too. Did your party win the elections? Congratulations, now how are you going to spread the gospel? Did your party loose? Better luck next time, now how are you going to spread the gospel? You see, in the end, our outcome should be the same. We can spread the gospel in a society that is favorable to Christianity, and we can also spread it in a society that is not favorable to Christianity. In fact, I’m not completely sure which environment is better (well, actually I have an opinion the second is actually a better environment, but I don’t want that to be the case).
How many people do you think we reach by boasting about our party’s success? How many souls do you think we influence by complaining about our party’s loss or the other party’s inadequacies? Not very many, unless they perhaps already have our political leanings. How much more effective could we be by living godly and dignified lives? I believe this is one of the reasons that Paul says that this kind of life is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior. If we live peaceful lives, we are likely to have more influence over the people around us. We are more likely to be able to show the the glory of the Father and the love of Christ. And isn’t that the whole point?
Paul goes on further to again remind Timothy of the goal, and the reason for rejoicing.
For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time. For this I was appointed a preacher and an apostle (I am telling the truth, I am not lying), a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and truth.
(I Timothy 2:5-7)
Christ, our Lord and Savior, who came to this earth, humbling Himself before men and giving His body as a sacrifice that we might be offered the good news of salvation. That’s the point. Not who gets into office, or what laws they will make or how bad it will be for Christians if the right people don’t get into office. Remember who is in control. It is almost irreverent to say that the right people didn’t get into office if we believe that God is in control. Are we questioning God’s actions? Do we not trust in Him anymore?
Are we not to be just as humble as our King?
We have a purpose in Christ while we remain on this earth, and that purpose is not to cause a scene when things go right or wrong (as we would deem it) politically for this country. Christ came and sacrificed Himself that we might stand reconciled before the Father, being washed in the blood of the risen Lamb. Are we to ruin that by squabbling over politics? Are we to loose our influence for the sake of letting our opinion be too heavily known publicly? We have a job to do, my fellow Christians, a job that has a much higher purpose.
It is my opinion that we should be informed and should vote, but then we should focus on the more important things, regardless of the outcome of the race. Our duty is the same either way, and the spread of the gospel will not be hindered by an oppressive government. God has proven that many times over the years, and He is still doing so today. The Lord God Almighty, creator of the universe and all that is therein, is in complete control. Trust Him, and walk in His will. The rest will work itself out.
Suggested Daily Reading: Romans 13-14, I Timothy 1-2.
Hallelujah to the King.