To Bless or To Curse, That is the Question…
“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same?” Matthew 5:43 -46
Over the last months I have watched with dismay as Christians and some church leaders have gone beyond voicing opposition to the current administration’s proposed policies and resorted to “ad hominem” attacks against the President. Respectfully voicing one’s opinions and views are a citizen’s responsibility as well as a constitutional right in the United States –it is also the duty of Christians – pastors, teachers, elders and citizens of the kingdom to declare the truth of the Gospel, God’s righteousness in the church and world today. However, when Christian spokesmen or leaders, call the President a “Nazi” or justify cursing the president or voice their desire for God to kill him, they have not only stepped beyond the bounds of civil discourse but have violated the clear mandate of Jesus to his followers not to curse but to bless, not to revile but to honor, not to hate but to love, especially when it involves a God ordained position of authority as found in Romans 13:1-7; 1 Timothy 2:1-3 and 1 Peter 2:17. I find no scriptural justification for what is happening in such cases in church gatherings, on the internet or other media. The church is to pray for all in authority and to honor them as leaders, regardless of their popularity or their policies. In those examples from the Bible where state or governing authority overstepped their limits (such as Daniel 6 or Acts 4:18 ) we see believers faithfully but respectfully refusing to comply without any of the venom or vitriol being unleashed today in situations that are far less dire than those the prophets or apostles faced.
If the apostolic church was called to do honor the Emperor despite the violence, decadence and inhumanity of the Roman system, we are to honor and pray for leaders as well even in a constitutional, representative democracy because of the authority they represent and exercise. Even such a pugnacious writer as the early church father Tertullian refuted the calumny of treason leveled against the church by its critics by pointing out that the church prayed, “entreating blessings for their persecutors”, for “the safety of the Emperor” and “for the whole stability of the empire” recognizing that the church’s prayers would affect social and economic conditions and lead to increased civic unrest and disorder or peace. How different is that spirit compared to what is often heard today, the alien spirit our own Lord rebuked in his disciples when they desired to pray down the fire of judgment on the Samaritans (Luke 9:52-55)! Those who violate clear scriptural mandates with slander, calumny and cursing demonstrate that they are not “sons of the Most High” and are of a different spirit that is destructive and ungodly. Far better, as Matthew Henry said “to call for grace from heaven” than to vent the spleen of human wrath or sectarian political demagoguery masquerading as God’s judgment!
As is said “I have no dog in this fight” – I am neither a supporter of the two predominant political parties and have major disagreements with both as well as the present and past administrations. However, I do have a concern for the public voice of the Christian faith and at this time I fear it is being grossly distorted. If the church does not pray and pray appropriately, I fear we will see a further increase in extreme rhetoric, racial violence, civic disorder and domestic terrorism, fueled by this alien spirit.
Clement of Rome, who was part of the apostolic church before the first century was over, lived under the persecutions of Domitian and Trajan and may have been martyred, provides one of the church’s ancient prayer for those in authority –
“You, Master (God), have given them the power of sovereignty through your majestic and inexpressible might, so that we, acknowledging the glory and honor which you have given them, may be subject to them, resisting your will in nothing. Grant to them, Lord, health, peace, harmony, and stability, that they may blamelessly administer the government which you have given them. For you, heavenly Master, King of the ages, give to the sons of men glory and honor and authority over those upon the earth. Lord, direct their plans according to what is good and pleasing in your sight, so that by devoutly administering in peace and gentleness the authority which you have given them they may experience your mercy. You, who alone are able to do these and even greater good things for us, we praise through the high priest and guardian of our souls, Jesus Christ, through whom be the glory and the majesty to you both now and for all generations and for ever and ever. Amen.” (1 Clement 61.1-3)
Church – it’s time to pray like followers of Jesus!