Special Report: Now What?
Vol: 88 Issue: 21 Wednesday, January 21, 2009
One of the most difficult things to gauge when I am writing the Omega Letter is when I’ve passed the saturation point; that point where all that needs to be said has been said on a given topic.
When it comes to Barack Hussein Obama, I feel like I’ve hit the saturation point already — and he’s only been president since yesterday. But there is yet one issue we need to address before settling in to witness what the Obamanation maketh desolate in the days ahead.
What should we, as Christians, do about Barack Obama? One of our members quoted 1st Timothy 2:1-2:
“I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; For kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty.”
The general thought is that this verse calls on Christians to pray for those in authority. When we use the term ‘pray for’ — correct me if I’m wrong — it is generally used in the positive sense.
That is to say, when you pray for somebody or something, you are praying for a positive outcome — for them.
But that’s not exactly what Paul is telling Timothy. Let’s break it down into its component elements.
Paul’s first point is that the supplications, prayers, intercessions and giving of thanks offered should be on behalf of all men.
Secondly, they should be offered (on behalf of all men) for kings and those in authority to a specific purpose — that is to say, Paul is telling Timothy to pray for something from God concerning kings and those in authority.
Finally, Paul gets to the actual prayer, which is that we (Christians) be permitted to lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty (ie practice our faith without interference.)
I’d like to believe that this verse exhorts us simply to pray for the success of our political leaders. In the end, the prayer is offered on behalf of the Church, not for kings and those in authority.
In Paul’s day, that would have been Nero. Nero’s political platform called for the extermination of the cult of Christianity that was sweeping the Roman Empire.
Could Paul have been exhorting Timothy to pray for Nero’s success in destroying the churches Paul dedicated his life to planting and nurturing?
Consider the famous evangelist, Corrie Ten Boom. When Holland was occupied by the Nazis, she worked tirelessly to hide and save Jews from the death camps.
But Holland was under Nazi occupation, making Adolph Hitler the ‘king’ in authority. Paul certainly wasn’t exhorting Corrie Ten Boom to pray for Hitler’s successful administration.
Then there is Romans Chapter 13 to take into account. In this passage Paul writes: “Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God.”
When Paul notes that the powers that be are “ordained of God” he is stating the obvious.
God has His purposes and He is the one who sets up and tears down kingdoms according to His will. Therefore, Paul tells us not to rise up against those powers because resisting the powers ordained by God is akin to resisting God Himself.
“Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation. For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil. Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power? do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the same.”
Again, it is important to remember that the Apostle Paul’s world was ruled by the Emperor Nero. And it was Nero who ultimately took Paul’s head. Yet of Nero, Paul the Apostle writes;
“For he is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil.” (Romans 13:1-4)
Nero is “the minister of God TO THEE for good” — because “we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose.” (Romans 8:28)
Paul knew that God had a purpose for Nero that would ultimately work together for ‘good’ — from God’s perspective. Historians look back on the early Church and credit Nero with inadvertently helping it grow.
The Christians in the arenas faced horrifying deaths with such serenity that it made the witnesses wonder what there was about this Christianity that inspired such faith and courage?
Whether Nero wanted to be used by God or not was irrelevant. God used Nero to His purpose. While the ‘good’ was not that clear to Paul and probably completely obscured from most other martyrs, they trusted the Lord that there was a purpose for both Nero’s reign and their own martyrdom.
So they prayed, not that Nero would accomplish HIS will, but rather that God would use Nero like the tool that Nero was in order to accomplish GOD’s will.
The early Christians undoubtedly prayed that Nero would be unsuccessful in his efforts to exterminate Christianity, and they probably prayed that lots of other programs he instituted would fail.
The Bible never tells us to pray for the will of the person in authority to be done. Instead it reminds us that God put that person in authority because it is God’s will that ultimately matters. Good and evil are outcomes and therefore, to quote Obama himself, “above our pay grade.”
Nero was evil, but God’s purpose was to use Nero to advance the growth of the Church, which was good. But that didn’t mean Nero’s persecution of Christians was right or that Christians who fled persecution were wrong. Right and wrong are the choices placed before the individual, not good and evil.
Joseph’s brothers intended evil for Joseph when they sold him into slavery in Egypt. They didn’t know God would use that evil act to save them from starvation during the famine to come.
I can’t pray for Barack Obama to be successful in poisoning the judiciary with liberal activist judges. I can’t pray that he’ll be successful in his efforts to remove all legal restrictions on abortion.
Or that he’ll be successful in overturning the ban on gays in the military or expanding the definition of marriage. Or any of at least two dozen other issues. Indeed, I must pray that he fails.
On these issues, I can only pray that God’s will be done, according to His purposes, and study the Scriptures to see what the Lord wants us to know about those purposes and how they relate to our mission of leading as many to Christ as possible in the time allotted to us.
It is a conundrum. How does one pray for one’s nation while praying for the failure of its leadership? It boils down to the black and white issues of right and wrong. Pray for what is right. Speak out against what is wrong.
And in all things, His will be done.