First of all, then, I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men, for kings and all who are in authority, so that we may lead a tranquil and quite life in all godliness and dignity. This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires that all men to saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.
1 Timothy 2:1-3
American politics is a dirty battle ground. The majority of those involved in running for office not only research their best chance to win the position they are seeking but also to assure that their opponents are seen as people who are not qualified for the position of public office.
At the same time, the voter partakes in this battle. The voter is one who not only can support the candidate they deem qualified for public office but also is one who critiques those who are seeking to serve in public office.
Because of this favoring and degrading aspect of politics, it is easy to lose sight of what should be the believers’ role in the realm of politics. Americans criticize and often persecute politicians for failed promises and moral deficiencies and this isn’t necessarily incorrect.
It is a good thing to see that powerful men and women don’t escape scrutiny from the people who has given them power in the governmental social contract. However, our job as Christians is not JUST to criticize and to hold accountable those who are above is.
Paul presents to Timothy in his letters the idea of the necessity of the church to practice the discipline of prayer, not just for the sake of the needs of the church, but part of the mission of the church is to intercede or to make intercession for those who are in power above them.
As Western Christians our role in a democratic republic is not only to weed out unfavorable candidates and support favorable candidates, but also it is to intercede for those who seek, are, or will be taking an oath as a public servant. Intercede on behalf of them in two regards:
- That they may come to do righteousness and justice, maintaining order in society so that citizens can live peacefully honoring God in the process
- Also for this government official to be able to come to the saving knowledge of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
One of the most neglected areas of the mission field is the mission field of government. In today’s modern age, politicians can often be seen as people-groups that need the presentation of the gospel just as much as the small tribes in the outlands of Africa. Pew Research Center found as of January 3, 2019 to show a slight 2.5% decrease of Christian affiliation which has been a continuation of a downward shift from what is was in the early 60s. And at the same time the decrease of Christian affiliation has also been accompanied with a jump from more traditionally doctrinal centered denominations to more superficial and liberal denominations of Christianity.
This data begins to present to us the notion that not only that there is a steady decline in the influence the Gospel has within the policy making in Washington but it also shows that there is an increase in those who claim the name of Christ but hold superficial understanding of what the Scriptures say.
Paul presents to Timothy this idea, that it is good to desire the salvation of all men (not in a quantitative sense, but in a qualitative sense; all types of men), which includes those who are in God established and ordained authority.
Now, what is interesting to see is that we aren’t talking about a democratic republic in Paul’s time, but instead the Roman Empire, who ruled with an iron fist. And Paul’s command to Timothy is not to start a revolution, not to rebel and critique the Roman Empire, not to organize a movement to overpower Cesar, not to bring about a toppling of this present government, but instead to pray. To pray for the current government to actually prosper in the roles it possesses as an institution established by God.
This might come as an idea that we normally don’t think about. Paul commands Timothy as the apostle of God, to pray for the most recognized pagan society who persecuted his church, to prosper in its job as a government. This might even come as a shock but even a corrupt government like the Roman Empire is placed on earth to do the will of God.
We begin to see that Paul presents to Timothy the foundation of what works the church should focus on in respect to the interaction with the civil government. Government was designed to glorify God in its policy making, but not through the means coercion or establishment of constituents to support candidates. This task will be accomplished through the constant prayer of the church that the Spirit of God can regenerate the hearts of politicians and leaders through the proclamation of the gospel to them. Only then, will the government come to a saving knowledge of Christ, and bring about with it the establishment of policy that will bring God the glory.
We can say that the job of the church concerning government is to intercede and evangelize those in power over us, so that the gospel may work through them, thus making the civil and federal government a means that bring about justice and God honoring policy.