Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Persecution and Praying for the Government

First of all, then, I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men,for kings and all who are in authority, so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity (1 Tim 2:1-2).

From the inception of His earthly ministry, our Lord Jesus guaranteed persecution to His disciples (e.g., Matt 10:16-39). And this promise continues for the Church(e.g., 2 Tim 3:10-12). So, why are we to pray for "a tranquil and quiet life" through our governing authorities? Are we told to ask for something that God has promised we will not obtain in this life? As is so often typical in Scripture, the answer is in the following verses (1 Tim 2:3-4):
This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.
We pray for tranquility and freedom under our governing authorities, so that the mission of God to save men through the message of the Church may be fulfilled. Praying for the government is akin to praying for the spread of the Gospel. Pastor Piper explains it as follows:
God aims to save people from every tribe and tongue and people and nation. But one of the great obstacles to victory is when people are swept up into social, political, and militaristic conflicts that draw away their attention, time, energy, and creativity from the real battle of the universe.

- Let the Nations Be Glad!, p. 70.
As we pray for our government leaders - as our church does by name each Lord's Day - we are not thereby presuming our hope lies in the level of prosperity and protection that can be afforded by our government. Rather, we are asking God to fulfill His promises by preventing our government from hindering the "godliness and dignity" of His saints and the Church's mission to proclaim the Gospel of Christ until He returns. This, of course, is most directly accomplished through the salvation of our leaders!

So, I am grateful for the recent popular attention being given to Christian persecution. See, for example, Brinkley's article in SF Chronicle, "A Wave of Christianophobia" (HT: Duran Central). Yesterday, OneNewsNow reported that the U.S. State Department is purportedly "deeply concerned" about Christian persecution, especially in Africa and the Middle East (I would be indebted to anyone who can verify this with the original report from the State Department).

We continue to pray that the United States government would include the persecution of Christians - both at home and abroad - at the top of their policy concerns. Yet, we pray this in concert with the petitions that His Church may remember we are but slaves, who are not above the treatment endured by our Master(Matt 10:24), and that she may speak His Word with confidence to those who threaten (Acts 4:29). May the Kingdom and will of God's Son be accomplished.

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