LEADER TIMES WEEKEND RELIGION COLUMN FOR
November 19, 2016 by William H. Scarle, Jr. 813-835-0129
PRAYING FOR OUR NEW LEADERS
Rabbi Shaul (the Apostle Paul) wrote to young Timothy that prayer and thanksgiving should be offered for the leaders of the empire ( I Tim. 2:1ff). When he wrote this he had recently gotten out of a Roman prison under Nero, and he would find himself back in prison after a trip to Spain. So, what are we to pray for? The Apostle sums it up in a phrase; “That we might lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way.” In other words pray that the government allows us to be the Church and to live out our religious convictions in the public square.
This worked very well when it came to the institution of slavery. The population of the empire was about fifty percent slaves. It was a slave culture. When citizens became Christians they changed the way they treated their slaves. They were considered members of the family. They were offered a salary, allowed to buy property, were invited to join the church as equals with all other believers, participated in communion, and allowed to marry non-slaves. The government did not interfere with this process. They let it happen and slavery gradually disappeared from the empire so that during the medieval period of history there were peasants, but no slaves.
Much the same development happened in regard to gladiatorial games. As the population became more Christian they just did not attend. Slowly but surely the brutality of the arena disappeared. When no one comes the circus leaves town.
The same process took place in regard to the place of women in society and the preservation of the lives of children who were often aborted or exposed in Roman culture if the father did not want them. This was especially true of female children.
Things got better when the government just let the Christians be Christians and did not get involved in the life and moral convictions of the Christian community.
There was one notable exception to this trend, at least before Constantine. This involved emperor worship. It was illegal to refuse to venerate the emperor by burning incense before his statue and repeating the phrase “Caesar is Lord.” Christians could not in conscience do this as their faith accepted only one Lord and their confession was “Jesus is Lord.” As a result many of the most valuable citizens of the empire, including most of the Apostles, were burned or beheaded.
The Church does not want to run the government. Paul exhorts the believers to pray that the government does not try to run the Church. The founders of our nation pledged not to do this in the first amendment of our constitution. “Congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…” Sometimes that free exercise requires Christians to say, “No.” Generally this has worked well.
So, pray for the newcomers that they may allow us to practice our religious convictions without being told we must be politically correct. Our morals and our worship are not dictated by politicians. There is one God and he is not Caesar.
(Bill Scarle can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org). END-whs