Politicians are powerful people. They have major responsibilities and have very public roles. Their decisions affect us and we are expected to be subject to their authority. Yet what if we do not share their values – how can a Christian live in society? How do we honour, respect and support politicians and practice our faith?
Words for the Week
Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong.
Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and you will be commended. For the one in authority is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for rulers do not bear the sword for no reason. They are God’s servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer.
Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also as a matter of conscience. This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God’s servants, who give their full time to governing. Give to everyone what you owe them: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honour, then honour.
1 Timothy 2:1-2
I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people— for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness.
2 Chronicles 7:14
If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.
He changes times and seasons; he deposes kings and raises up others. He gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to the discerning.
When the righteous thrive, the people rejoice; when the wicked rule, the people groan.
There has been considerable political turmoil over the past 12 months. Brexit and the US elections have reshaped the landscape. It has been unsettling. It has made me wonder about the words of Romans 13 – “Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established”. Although it is surprising it is also reassuring. The Bible is clear that government is instituted by God. Government is there to protect us and for our happiness. Its even been said that government is evidence of the involvement of God in society.
Emil Brenner used the word “Erhaltungsgnade” for governments. This literally means – “preserving grace” – the structure of government being the grace that preserves good. Paul said that God ordains the structure of authority to uphold equality and freedom. Paul used words like ‘priest’ to describe leaders of governing authorities implying that politicians (like priests) are there to serve God and the people.
Imagine how it would be to live in a society governed by truly altruistic leaders with Godly values? I am grateful of the political processes and structures we do have in the UK, although the reality is that politicians (like ourselves) are flawed human beings and consequently their rule is not perfect. Good is not always upheld and sometimes leaders are agents of evil. As such we do need to assess the actions of our government and ‘So give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s’ (Matthew 22.21).
Do not fear the shakings but hide yourself in God – this is the only way to peace.
(Notes from John Woolman – p 190 – an epistle from our general spring meeting of minsters for Pennsylvania and New Jersey, 1755)
So, where does this leave us? It is our Christian duty to be responsible citizens. We are to live by the law – keep to the speed limit (which is tricky with the new Bristol 20 mph boundaries) and pay our taxes. Acting under the law of the land when the law is good will bless and honour our society. It is a means of loving our neighbour. However, we also need to discern if evil has a foot hold, and be prepared to take a stand if we think that what the governing powers are doing is not right, good and fair. And, we are called to pray for those who govern that they might be given wisdom and courage. We may even find that we are called to take positions in local or national government as ministers of God, just as Marvin Rees, the new mayor of Bristol has done.
Meanwhile we wait expectantly for the coming rule of Christ’s kingdom at his return, as Isaiah prophesied: ‘Of the increase of this government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and for evermore’ (Isaiah 9:7).
“The rule of the state is part of God’s economy of this age. God gives, the church lives under good government, and the church sieves government. Meanwhile we wait expectantly for the coming rule of Christ’s kingdom at his return, as Isaiah prophesied: ‘Of the increase of this government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and for evermore’ (Isaiah 9:7)”.
Own it personally…
- Do I live by the law?
- Do I respect and honour our government?
- How can I support, get involved and pray for local authorities and my MP?
- What political petitions can I sign to levy justice and peace in our world?
Speak it out – Pray and Prophesy
This is the opening prayer that is said daily in the House of Commons when Parliament is sitting:
Lord, the God of righteousness and truth, grant to our Queen and her government, to Members of Parliament and all in positions of responsibility, the guidance of your Spirit. May they never lead the nation wrongly through love of power, desire to please, or unworthy ideals but laying aside all private interests and prejudices keep in mind their responsibility to seek to improve the condition of all mankind; so may your kingdom come and your name be hallowed. Amen.
Another prayer for the prime minister and for our government:
Sovereign God, give grace to those who lead our Government and nation that they may use their gifts and abilities to serve the common good, and to seek that unity which is your gift and your will; through him who came not to be served but to serve, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.