Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. — Romans 13:1 (NIV)
One of the basic teachings in Christianity is that there are three institutions that have been ordained of God in this world. In each of them, there are levels of submission and authority.
Those three institutions are, first, the family, a small community of related people who have as their interest the mutual care of one another. There is fellowship and sharing, labor and provision and also submission and authority.
The scriptures have designated the husband as the head of the family. The wife is to submit to her husband. The children are, in turn, to submit to the parents. When submission and authority are out of order, there is confusion and turmoil in the family.
The second institution is the church, a small community of believers in the Lord Jesus Christ. These believers have as their interest the worship and service of God, as well as the mutual care of one another.
The head of the church is the Lord Jesus Christ. The church global is to submit to His leadership. Under Him falls the pastor, other church leaders and then other members of the congregation. When God’s order is maintained in the church, blessings and harmony abound. When that order is violated, there will be division and hurt.
The third institution is the government, a larger community of people who are brought together under central leadership. These people have as their interest the mutual good of all other citizens. The submission of the citizens to the authorities of the government will produce a tranquil society.
While the Christian community engages regularly in much prayer for family and church, it seems that not as much interest and emphasis are placed on the need for prayers for our government and our national leaders. Yet we are encouraged in scripture to respect and pray for our governmental leaders. It is the responsibility of the righteous to pray for God’s reign on earth to be realized through our leaders.
Popular pastor and author Warren W. Wiersbe says, “The best citizen ought to be the Christian citizen. Though the church is not to get involved in party politics, individual believers certainly should use their God-given privileges as citizens to see to it that the best leaders are elected and the best laws are enacted and enforced justly.”
Pastor Alan Carr of North Carolina says, “We are commanded to fear and honor those who have the rule over us. Even if we cannot respect the persons for their positions, their beliefs or their actions, we still owe them a debt of respect because of the position they
Remember, they would not be serving there unless they had been allowed to by God!
Therefore, respect given to those in authority is, in effect, respect given to God.”
Our president and members of the Senate have a delicate and potentially dangerous decision to make with regards to our involvement in Syria. Our president and our national leaders deserve our prayers.
Communicating with the government through letters, emails, rallies and forums may prove effective in urging them to act in a way that best benefits our country. But the best communication resource we have is our direct access to God who established human authority in the first place.
You see, Christians ultimately trust that God will deliver his creation from the pervasive and pernicious influence of sin. But our legitimate penultimate expectation – our hope in the time between the first and second coming of Christ – is that political leadership governs justly by defending the poor, rescuing the children of the needy and protecting all who are oppressed.
Thoughtful Christians will disagree on the best ways for a democratic society to carry out the biblical triad of social responsibilities (family, church, government). What we should all affirm is that poverty, the well-being of children and the needs of the oppressed should be at the center of our nation’s public affairs.
If God’s people will humble themselves and pray for our national leaders, He will hear us, help us and heal us.
*Walter T. Richardson is pastor-emeritus of Sweet Home Missionary Baptist Church in South Miami-Dade County and chairman of the Miami-Dade Community Relations Board. He may be contacted at wtrichardson@Bellsouth.net. Website: WTRMinistries.com