July 7, 2019 Pray For The Crooks!
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
“They’re all a bunch of crooks!” those ..…politicians. Some use that phrase as their lame excuse for not voting in an election, or to end a political discussion. And altho we may have good reasons (at times) for not trusting our government, we still have a special responsibility, as Christians who are also Citizens. On this 4th of July weekend, we celebrate our Nation’s Independence; and as part of that, we thank God that He guided the founders of our nation to find the balance of freedom & responsibility we still enjoy. Without both freedom AND responsibility, we won’t enjoy the full blessings of life.
In church, we often talk about this balance of freedom & responsibility as citizens of heaven. By our old nature, we are not balanced = we only want the freedom to do whatever WE want, without the responsibility of obeying God. That’s sin. But it’s very important that we have the balance; without it, our sins separate us from God, & from life forever.
With His written Word, God is our supreme governor & authority. He has forgiven us our law-breaking-sins by His Savior. Jesus died in our place so that we could live free. BUT this freedom is for doing right & good, not for wrong. We have the responsibility to make sure Jesus didn’t die for nothing. So, God sets the guidelines, the boundaries we must not cross, and the laws we must not break. It’s hard, but we must submit to His authority, and live responsibly. As citizens of heaven, there is this balance between being free & being responsible.
So it is with our earthly citizenship. It’s not always easy to be subject to the authorities. We often hear about the ‘separation between church & state’. That does not mean WE must be silent in the public square. What that means is that the government cannot tell us what to believe or how to worship. That’s a very important separation. But there is also an important connection between the church & the state; and God defined it in 1Timothy 2:
“I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession, and thanksgiving be made for everyone — for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives
in all godliness and holiness. ”
So, *we have to pray for those crooks? God tells us to make prayers, / intercession, / and thanksgiving for ALL those in authority. It’s true that Republicans found it difficult to pray positively for the last Democrat president; and Democrats find it hard to pray for the current president.
But our Supreme Authority calls on US, His people, to pray for the leader of our land, no matter who fills the office. *Do we pray only for those we like or agree with? We sinners were once enemies of God in our wicked behavior. But Jesus Christ came to pray for & die for sinners. And we are students & imitators of our Lord Jesus, who have a higher reason to pray. In response to God’s undeserved love & freedom in Christ Jesus, we will pray for the spiritual welfare of others, especially for the most influential leader, the president of our nation.
Of course, the president isn’t the whole government. There are the members of the House & Senate, / federal judges, / & other national leaders, with all their influential staff. And there are more local branches of people in authority: in our state & counties, our city & townships. They are making decisions on our behalf, & on behalf of our children’s & grandchildren’s future. They affect our lives; we must also intercede to God for them; that God would direct them for our good. AND we must not forget the law officers who stop us for a traffic violation, & keep burglars out of our homes. God says that they are worthy of our respect & prayers. So, He commands us, 1 Peter 2: “Submit yourselves -for the Lord’s sake- to every authority instituted among men.” And in Rom.13: For, “the authorities that exist have been established by God.”
Everyone has authorities: God has some special instructions for children, whose first & foremost authority is right in their home =the parents= chosen by God for their good. Eph.6 says: “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.” So, everyone, no matter who they are, everyone has authorities over them: “pray for kings and all those in authority.”
How well Jesus understood that when HE walked the earth. Altho we don’t hear much about Jesus’ childhood, we do hear this, in Luke 2: “then Jesus went down to Nazareth with his parents, and was obedient to them.” You remember that He also said, “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s” (Mark 12.) And finally, he told Pontius Pilate, “You would have no power over me if it were not given to you from above.”
The very Son of God, the King-of-kings, submitted Himself to all the earthly authorities, tho they were sinful, & sometimes terrible people; because at the same time -by doing so-
He was submitting Himself to His Father, who had established them. And later, Jesus prayed for them all, even while they were crucifying Him. Just as He taught: “Love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you.” Mt.5 Jesus prayed for kings & all those in authority.
This brings up another point of God’s command for us. *What if the ruler is a tyrant, or a dictator, or just a godless fool? *Do we have to pray for them, too? The language of our text is clear: “everyone” and “all” mean no exceptions. The command is that we pray for whoever presently has authority. We believe that God has allowed them to be placed there; either for our blessing or for our testing. And *who needs God’s help more = a good leader, or a poor one? both
*What good will it do if God’s people just curse them, or wish bad on them? *Can we cause anything to happen by our curses or wishes? But a prayer is different, isn’t it ?!
God hears & answers the prayers of His faithful people; He does not heed the wishes or curses of unbelievers. So, our feelings don’t affect things; but our prayers do.
In Paul’s time, the Roman Caesar was a tyrant & a pagan, punishing & killing christians. Nevertheless, even tho Paul was imprisoned & suffering because of gov’t or religious authorities, and yet, by the Spirit of God He wrote, “Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established.”
This is the example of our Lord and His Apostles; we don’t have to like or agree with those who are in leading positions; God knows they need our prayers. Even if we must oppose their immoral laws, or vote against them & their policies, God wants us to pray for our leaders.
*WHY do they need our prayers? Our text gives 2 reasons:
#1) because it’s for our own good, and #2) because they have a difficult task.
Those with authority are in ‘the drivers seat’. In a lot of ways, we have to go where they lead. In our country, we have freedom to determine much of our life. But we couldn’t do this without leaders keeping our security. Many of our free-choices depend on the boundaries, regulations, or laws set by our leaders. God says we are to pray for leaders so that WE can live quiet, peaceful, & productive lives. Pray that they keep us safe; pray that they are not a burden on our freedoms.
In fact, the picture’s much bigger than our personal freedoms. The biggest task of the gov’t
=in God’s eyes= is to maintain order so that God’s Church can carry out His commission to take the saving Good News of forgiveness in Jesus Christ to all ears; we are to “Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them, and teaching them to obey everything He’s commanded.”
Without a powerful government that punishes evil doers & protects the innocent, we would live in chaos & fear, preoccupied with our own personal & family safety, and we might never get around to Baptizing & Teaching with the saving Gospel of Christ Jesus.
For our own sakes, and for the sake of the mission & message of Christ’s Church,
we need to pray that our government officials enact & execute just & proper laws, and maintain law & order among us. Then the gov’t will have godly citizens, & the Church can obey God’s Great Commission. Order & justice, / safety & opportunity / & freedom …..these are all things worth fighting for, even fighting wars & dying for; because they maintain a safe, productive, peaceful life, in which the life of freedom in Christ can be enjoyed & spread. It’s for our own good; for righteousness & peace in the world.
We also pray for those in authority because they have a difficult task. For every person in a leading position, there are a hundred-times as many who are not; for every leader who makes decisions, there are many who make complaints. For those who are trying to look at the nation’s big picture, there are many more who are only focused on their own little picture.
It’s much easier to complain than to lead. Some leaders deserve criticism; some do not. Some deserve support, others ~ opposition. But ALL are to receive our prayers, that they would be wise in their positions, and make decisions that are broadly fair, and benefit as many citizens as possible; decisions that are God-pleasing.
Especially around election time, we hear a lot about lobbies & political special interest groups & the corruption of money. Those in authority are always being pressured to make decisions that favor to one group over another. We even see that in the OT. In Isaiah 1, God said, “Your rulers are rebels, companions of thieves; they all love bribes and chase after gifts.”
Those in authority need our prayers to help them avoid falling for such temptations, and hurting God’s will of justice & peace for all. So we pray that God Himself would not abandon them, in their difficult job; but make His authority known to them, that they would fear & honor Him, and govern according to His Will. We want to be a nation led by those who know, fear & honor the one true God.
So, 2 things are true: It doesn’t do any good NOT to pray for ‘those crooks’, & God commands us TO pray for them; (& they’er not all crooks). Even if we think they won’t listen to God, or consciously do what He wants, we will still pray for them; because God has many ways to accomplish good for us thru them = ways we cannot see. We may not trust some of our authorities any farther than we can throw them. But we trust God; that He will work things out for the good of us all, & His kingdom.
And so, today, and this week, we thank God for our independence & liberties.
But we also thank Him for how He balances our freedoms with our responsibilities.
Faithful Christians make excellent Citizens because we know that -in all things- we aim to obey our Lord, who is guiding & governing the whole world for the good of all.
So, our Lord commands us: ….that requests, / prayers, / intercession / and thanksgiving be made for everyone — for kings and all those in authority, that we may continue to live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness.
May God bless His Church, bless the saving mission of His Gospel of Christ for all people, and bless US in these United States. Amen