In today’s Bible reading, Paul tells his spiritual son Timothy that Believers should pray for those in authority over them. He uses several Greek words for prayer, each covering a different kind of prayer. And he tells Timothy to pray “for everyone, for kings and all those who are in authority, so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity.” (1 Timothy 2:1-2 CSB) The emphasis isn’t so much on the kinds of prayers, but whom the prayers are to be for. He begins with “everyone” and immediately names the title of civil authorities. Yes, we need to pray for our church leaders, but that’s not Paul’s focus. Paul’s focus is on the civil authorities. Why?
In order to better appreciate Paul’s instructions to pray for those in authority, we must look at the historical context of Paul’s letter to Timothy. Paul wrote the letter around AD 63-66 after his release from house arrest in Rome. He is quite aware of the growing climate of Roman religious persecution. Nero is the Roman Emporer and he isn’t known for being friendly to Christians. Actually, Nero is known to have used Christians as street lights in Rome as their bodies were impaled and set afire at night.
It’s in this historical context that Paul tells Timothy to pray for civil authorities … including Nero. WHAT???
You may have seen social media posts decrying Christian persecution because a retail store employee was forbidden from telling customers, “Merry Christmas” or an HOA prohibited a Christian from displaying a manger on her front lawn. Now let me ask, in comparison to the religious persecution experienced by First Century Christians under Nero, how can we dare call these examples “Christian persecution”? We can’t because it isn’t.
It seems that our political climate is as divided as I’ve ever heard of. When it comes to those in places of civil authority in our country, I confess, I complain a lot more than I pray.
You may really like the current President of the United States of America. Or you may think the President is unpresidential. You may think the President is a reprobate. You may feel the President is personally repulsive. You may feel the President is guilty of committing crimes.
I’m sure lots of people have voiced these opinions of most of our Presidents!
It really doesn’t matter who our civil authorities are, if you call yourself a Christian, you are obligated to pray for them. The same goes for those in civil authority on the State and community level. Paul says to pray for all of them. And so we must.
So what do we pray for those in civil authority?
For starters, pray for their salvation. Pray for their walk with God. Pray they live in integrity. Pray for wisdom. And pray for impartiality in enforcing, legislating, and interpreting our laws.
In today’s Bible reading, Paul highlights the fact that his ministry isn’t about him. He constantly points out that he is reaching out to others. His focus is never about him.
He emphasizes here (and elsewhere) that one of his purposes — and one of our purposes — is to build up other people. Look at Social Media. Look at TV shows. Look at movies. Look at the headlines. Putting people down is everywhere. It seems that every month (every week?) another teen has made a really bad choice because he/she was bullied on Social Media. “Be Kind” seems to be the motto of the day.
We shouldn’t have to be reminded to be kind. (Ephesians 4:32) We shouldn’t have to be reminded that it’s not about us. but Paul reminds us anyway.
Who can you build up today? Maybe it’s a family member. Maybe it’s a friend. Maybe it’s a coworker. Maybe it’s a complete stranger. Building up someone is never a bad thing to do.
And be kind and compassionate to one another,
forgiving one another,
just as God also forgave you in Christ.
Ephesians 4:32 (CSB)
Just about every day, I read posts from several pastor groups on Facebook. Many of the groups are very supportive, providing a “safe place” for pastors to air their frustrations without worrying that their comments will be seen by mean-spirited church members. Other pastors will add a “praying for you” comment or a “Praying Hands” emoji. Sometimes other pastors will point out errors in someone’s thinking, bringing them back to a Biblical foundation for discussion.
And then there are others.
It seems that some people feel they are God’s gift to pastors, someone whose divine destiny is to correct everything that’s wrong with everyone else’s theology. Rarely does such hard-worded rebuke — in the absence of a relationship with the other person — accomplish anything substantive. And then other people (with no relationship with each other) chime in and the “flame wars” begin.
In today’s Bible reading, Paul says it shouldn’t be like this. He says that if someone falls into temptation (or wrong theology or practice), they should be gently corrected and restored. (Galatians 6:1) This gentle correction is only possible in the context of a
The bigger context of Paul’s remarks is that we should be about encouraging each other, bearing each other’s burdens, humbly remembering that at any time, any of us could make some bad choices.
Humility is a scarce character trait. But developing it will keep a check on your mouth and on your behavior. When someone steps up and either offers to correct a wrong belief you have or exposes a sin you’re involved in, listen. They could be completely wrong in what they’re saying. Or they could be correct and you could be wrong. Don’t “get your panties in a wad”, but listen. Ask them to help you (even if you’re right and they’re wrong).
God gave us two eyes and two ears and only one mouth. Perhaps He designed us to look and listen more than speak. (see James 1:19)
When you speak and when you listen, do it with a humble attitude.