Free to Serve

Free to Serve

The latest poll results are in, and Congress has an anemic approval rating of 21%.  About one in five Americans thought Congress was doing a good job in June.  That’s a significant improvement, though, over November of 2013, when approval bottomed out at 9%.  Our president has an approval rating of 39%.

What is our role as Christians in a bitterly divided nation, surrounded by loud protests, angry tweets, calls for impeachment, and the seeming inability of our government to accomplish much of anything?

The obvious answer is to pray.  Psalm 72, which we just read, is a prayer of King David for his son and successor, Solomon.  David asks that Solomon be just and righteous, that Israel will prosper under him, that Solomon will defend those who are oppressed and needy, that he will reign a long time, and will be refreshing to his people, that other kings will respect him, and – again – that he will take up the cause of the needy and the oppressed.

In the midst of our indignation, how many times have we stopped – shut out the noise – and prayed fervently for those in authority over us?

 Some of you will find that easy to do.  Others will have to make quite an effort.  But I don’t suspect that we have anyone here this morning who is advocating an overthrow of the U.S. Government or any of its branches.

That is simply not acceptable for Christians in this nation.  As Peter wrote in his first pastoral letter, we are to submit ourselves “to every authority instituted among men” – for the Lord’s sake.  So our political activity should come right out of our Christian faith.  We glorify God when we engage in legitimate political activity.

So donate to your favorite candidates.  Put signs in your yard.  Pass our flyers and attend rallies.  Help with mailings.  Vote – and then accept the results graciously.

Then in verse 15, he tells us why: “it is God’s will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish men.”

With rare exceptions, we must continue to show the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ to everyone – including leaders we don’t like personally or whose policies we don’t like.  And toward people whose views and votes don’t match ours.

When people get ignorant in their indignance, we must do good in return.  While that may not silence them, it will certainly turn attention away from them and toward our God.

The next verse is the most challenging: “Live as free men, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as servants of God.”  It sounds simple enough – but what if a ruler is evil to the core?  Not a sinful human being like the rest of us, or someone who is tactless, or someone whose policies are harmful – to advocate violence in cases like that would be using our freedom as a cover-up for evil.

So Paul sums it up this way:

Show proper respect to everyone: Love the brotherhood of believers, fear God, honor the king.

The key word is proper – the respect that is due everyone.  We are to love our fellow Christians as sisters and brothers – love which becomes hard when they don’t see eye-to-eye with us on politics and policies.

Then we are to fear God and honor the king.  Our fear of God compels us to honor those in authority over us and their decisions – but our fear of God may force us to resist an evil authority or decision.

So Christians can and should write or call their elected officials – but should show honor and respect in how they voice their disapproval.

We are not facing anything in the United States right now that would require us to work outside the legitimate political process – surrounding it with prayer.

I said that prayer is the first thing we should do, it should also be the last we do – so let us close with a prayer from George Washington in a speech to Congress:

I now make it my earnest prayer that God would… most graciously be pleased to dispose us all to do justice, to love mercy, and to demean ourselves with that charity, humility, and pacific temper of the mind which were the characteristics of the Divine Author of our blessed religion.

Amen.