“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.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…” (1 Timothy 2:1-4)
Pray for everyone? Give thanks for everyone? Give thanks for President Obama? It is clear that is what the good book says.
When I read a passage like this, at first glance it seems innocent enough, nothing to worry me here. And then, after the Holy Spirit reminds me of it again and again I am confronted with my sinfulness. I come face to face with reality, not the pretty picture I see when I compare myself with others I know. No, the reality I am forced to admit and deal with is ugly, raw, sin.
If Jesus says “love” and I don’t love, I am wrong. And, isn’t love the foundation for all we do in our lives as believers. (That is, the “good” things we do as believers.)
I find myself agonizing over passages like the one Paul wrote to young Timothy. Who was the ruler when he wrote that passage, Nero? Nero was not the kind of ruler who was loved by his subjects. He was a ruthless, power absorbed, evil monster, who happened to be the top guy in the government. Give thanks for Nero? Pray for Nero? Pray for good things to happen for Nero? That seems to be the case.
I don’t like anything about President Obama. I don’t like his personality, I don’t like the way he governs, I don’t like his deceitfulness and lack of transparency. And I really don’t like his policies and the direction he and the Democrats are taking our country. But, I am to pray for him, I can do that. I am also to give thanks for him, how can I do that? Well, I think there is an answer.
“Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval” (Romans 13:1-3)
You see, I tend to forget that God is in control. Leaders, those in government authority, are there to serve God’s unsearchable purposes. Read this text carefully and it will change your attitude about your response to government, it did mine. I don’t want to resist God’s will, do you?
“He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together” (Colossians 1:15-17)
Government, leaders with authority, those who in many ways rule our lives are God’s creation. Rulers (presidents) and the authority they have is God’s specific design. So in light of these passages I can heartedly give thanks for President Obama! He is serving God, carrying out God’s plan. I don’t have to understand what God’s purposes are in detail. My job is to be an obedient subject to the King of kings and Lord of lords and He says government and government leaders are his design and they are under his control. I don’t need to fear them, I need to submit to them, pray for them and give thanks for them.
I must admit, my faith is stretched. I struggle with this but the truth is clear and if I want to please God I must submit to Him and to His authority, even when sometimes it comes in a package I don’t like very much.
By the way, Paul was the human author of both texts quoted above and the government was about as evil and perverse as one could imagine. He recognized that even the godless Roman Empire was no more and no less than a tool in God’s hand. Think about it, God used the Roman Empire to spread the good news far and wide. The Roman rule was mighty and long-lasting but it did end when God’s purposes had been served. God is in control of everything, every day, including government.