What is the Christian's Role in Politics?
Text: 1Timothy 2:1-8 --
What is a Christian’s obligation regarding politics? How shall Christians act and behave in a toxic political environment? What is a Christian’s role in politics?
The growing incivility in political rhetoric and protests against individuals because of their political stands, if left unchecked may foment a cultural and civic crisis in our land. How shall a Christian respond to such a volatile environment?
Medical practitioners abide by a practice to “first, do no harm.” This is a good starting point for Christians as well. This world is passing away, it is not our permanent home. As Christians who believe in the sovereignty of God we understand that God causes nations to rise and to fall. Our greatest efforts are not to uphold, support, or defend a worldly kingdom.
George Washington once said, “While we are zealously performing the duties of good citizens and soldiers, we certainly ought not to be inattentive to the higher duties of religion. To the distinguished character of Patriot, it should be our highest glory to add the more distinguished character of Christian." (emphasis mine).
Today’s sermon is an exposition of 1 Timothy 2:1-8. Paul writes to Timothy with emphasis, “first of all.” This is a matter of significant importance he urges. What does he urge but intercessory evangelistic prayer. He describes this kind of prayer in four terms; entreaties – a request for God to meet the needs of others; prayers - an appeal to God to act; petitions – a heart-felt personal and compassionate plea; and giving thanks – an expression of gratitude to the God who answers.
When entreating God on behalf of others, we are praying foremost for their salvation. Leaders are people of influence. If the leader is truly saved their influence for the Kingdom of God is leveraged to impact in much greater ways than another individual. Therefore, Paul urges Timothy to pray for all men (leadership in his day was often culturally limited to men), and for kings and all who are in authority. This special focus of prayer (to see leaders saved) has a beneficial result, “so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity.” Paul recognizes the benefit of living under godly rulers. This is a key motivation for Christians to pray for their leaders.
A society governed by God-fearing Christian leaders is far more likely to promote a civil environment that maximizes freedoms and welcomes dialogue about the matters which concern its citizens. Our country’s earliest documents were prescient in their scope and understanding of the essential freedoms that would create a society of peace and freedom. In recent days we are witnessing the degradation of those freedoms, and the subsequent rise in uncivil behavior. When the populace of our democratic republic ceases to elect God-fearing leaders, we can fully expect to lose the rewards promised of leading a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity.
If this were not reason enough to seriously and fervently pray for the salvation of our leaders, Paul provides four other reasons to do so. “This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.” First, Paul says that it is good. It is morally pleasing to God. It is the right thing to do. Secondly, praying for the salvation of others is consistent with God’s desires. He too desires all men to be saved. “For there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all people." This has now been witnessed to at the proper time. Our third reason for praying for the salvation of others is to demonstrate the necessity and power of the gospel. There is only one way of salvation, and when people are saved the power of the gospel and the glory of God are displayed. Paul’s fourth reason to urge Timothy to pray is his view that it is an extension of his calling. “And for this purpose I was appointed a herald and an apostle—I am telling the truth, I am not lying—and a true and faithful teacher of the Gentiles.” Seeing more people submitted and surrendered to the Lordship of Christ validates all that Paul has done.
Having established our duty (to intercede for the salvation of all men, but especially leaders), and having shown the benefits of such conduct (a tranquil life that glorifies God), Paul now addresses the manner in which we are to pray. “Therefore I want the men everywhere to pray, lifting up holy hands without anger or disputing.”
Paul's audience is Timothy, but by extension the counsel is for all church leaders. This is what he means when he says, “I want the men,” for by Paul’s understanding and writings, men were to be the leaders of the church. When he says, “in every place,” it would apparently be meaning wherever the church is gathered. Then he gives the singular imperative, “to pray.” This is what Paul requires of Timothy and the church leaders—prayer. They are to “lift up holy hands” as well. This is less a comment on posture than a comment regarding personal purity. The fact that Paul is addressing Timothy and church leaders, his comments are consistent with other scriptures regarding the righteousness expected of elders and deacons. (1 Timothy 3:1-7, 8-13; Titus 1:6-9; Acts 6:1-7)
Finally, Paul offers two limitations to the manner of prayer, “without wrath and dissension.” It is not befitting for elders and church leaders to be men of anger. When praying for civil leaders, we must not succumb to divisive rhetoric and vitriol. Our battle is not against men, but against spiritual powers in heavenly places. (Ephesians 6:12)
Every Christian should pray for humanity, and especially leaders. The church should pray primarily for their salvation. In our prayers we need to reflect on our need for personal righteousness and avoid judging others. Our prayers should reflect our respect for the dignity of all, and our love for all.
Here are a few practical guidelines for our Christian conduct in politics:
Pray for those in leadership, especially for their salvation
Share the Gospel with everyone (especially voters)
Exercise your vote conscientiously
Be involved / support / volunteer / run for office
Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth. (Ephesians 4:29)
Do all things without grumbling or disputing (Philippians 2:14)
Do not pass judgment on the opinions of others (Romans 14:1)