Our Faith and Politics
“I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people— 2 for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. 3 This is good, and pleases God our Savior…”
(1 Timothy 2:1-3) NIV
It was the morning after the presidential election in 2020. I remember feeling confused and disillusioned about politics and where our country was going politically, socially, and morally.
Feeling the full weight of disappointment that my political expectations were not going to be met, I felt a moment of clarity and peace. I was drawn to a passage in my mind from 1 Timothy 2:1-3
“Pray for the King and all those in authority…For this pleases God our Savior.”
The moment I read the verses the inner struggle, anger, and sense of brief panic was gone. The power of what I was reading lifted a huge weight off the chest of my perspective like a huge crane moves a steel beam like a toy.
The setting from which the Apostle Paul voiced these words was suffocating and hopeless. He was lodged, or better said, stuffed, into a small damp and dark cell below ground level in the Mamertine Prison of Rome for the purpose of awaiting his execution that would soon be ordered by the crazed Emperor Nero.
He dictated this letter to his friend and physician Luke. He couldn’t write his final two letters to Timothy himself because he was chained to a rusted post with Romain chains.
Not far from where Paul was held were many other believers also 20-30 feet under the marble and stone streets of Rome in the catacomb tunnels huddled together for prayer, communion, and fellowship in order to be safe from the unruly Roman government’s iron fist. It was in this hopeless culture that Paul encourages the believers; that the very royal leadership they were hiding from, they should pray that God would work through. “First of all petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for…Kings and all those in authority…This is good and pleases God our Savior.”
Notice that Paul doesn’t say pray for them if you agree with their policies or pray for them if you liked them politically or pray for them if they judicially support your interest. It’s as if the Lord is saying whether you respect the person in high office or not, you at least need to respect their position, because the Sovereign God of the universe allowed them to be placed in that position, whether we understand or support it or not. In the Book of Daniel we read “He controls the course or world events. He removes kings and raises up others” (Daniel 2:21).
I recently spoke with my daughter, Christina, who is 38 years old and is a wife and mother of three girls. I asked if she remembered what I told her and her brother growing up about their attitude or how they spoke about a president that wasn’t popular or liked by many. She said yes (which shocked me) and said you told us that whether we liked the president or not he was still the President of the United States of America and for that reason alone we should respect him for his position.
This is not the first time God allowed rulers of nations to govern his people through policies and ways that were inconsistent with their faith. We must be clear that it is our Sovereign God that allows and permits rulers to come and go at his bequest. As Jesus said to Pilate “You would have no authority over me if it wasn’t given to you by my father in heaven” (John 19;11).
Another thing that Paul stated that was very appealing to me personally. With the stress I was feeling at the time and the sense of having no control of where our country was sliding, I needed peace. Paul continues his reasoning and states that when we pray for those in places of high authority we should do so “that we may live peaceable and quiet lives.” Believe me, the last thing I was feeling the day after the election was peace and inner quiet. Interestingly enough, a few verses after these Paul also says “I want men everywhere to pray lifting up holy hands without anger and disputing” vs.8. In other words, you cannot simultaneously stay angry, spiteful, and resentful, or have a peaceful and quiet life while praying for God’s will and blessing for another.
With a lot of political unknowns going into a New Year, there is only one stable truth to rest our life on and that is: God is still, and will always be, in control of the course and events in His world, not our inconsistent and vacillating governmental systems. He is our Rock and never changing King and He has been here before.
Proverbs 21:1 says it best; “The king's heart is like a stream of water directed by the Lord; he guides it wherever he pleases.”
So whatever the changes and outcomes are politically and culturally going forward, our faith is secure, our truth is never changing and our God is in complete Sovereign control. So, “First of all petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for…Kings and all those in authority…This is good and pleases God our Savior.”
Pastor Bill Gallagher