Ever since a young woman from our congregation left for Marine boot camp several weeks ago, I've found myself wanting to pray more for the leaders of our country. Knowing that decisions made by those in authority over her will directly affect her life and the lives of her comrades, I find myself more personally compelled to "Pray for kings and everyone who is in authority so that we can live a quiet and peaceful life in complete godliness and dignity" (1 Timothy 2:2 CEB). Governing leaders and public servants daily make decisions that lead to life or death, and none of these decisions are trivial when God cares about the life of each individual created in his image. This is nothing new, but to me it feels closer to home in this season, and it's especially worth recalling now as our country prepares to remember those who have died in the service of our country this coming Memorial Day.
The New Testament has ambiguous messages about the Christian's relationship to the state. On the one hand, passages like Romans 13 (today's lectionary epistle) tell us to "be subject to governing authorities" and that governmental authority was appointed by God with the intention of being "God's servant for your good." On the other hand, Scripture suggests that all kingdoms of the earth are to some degree captive to the devil (Luke 4:5-6) and calls us to live counter-culturally as citizens of heaven (Philippians 3:20). Early Christians were frequently persecuted because of their allegiance to Jesus threatened the empire; to proclaim Jesus as Lord was to say that Ceasar was not (Acts 17:7).
The best way I know to manage this tension between responsible citizenship in our earthly country and the distinct identity demanded by our citizenship in heaven is through prayer. We can and ought to pray for wisdom for governing leaders (like Solomon did in 1 Kings 3:9); for peace, justice, and safety; for God's will to be done; and for the Lord's mercy to be poured out abundantly upon us. As we do, we "do not put our trust in princes, in mortals in whom there is no help" (Psalm 146:3), but in the One whose Kingdom will outlast every earthly power. In our lives and through our prayers, may his Kingdom come.
Grace and Peace,