There’s a story about Benjamin Franklin as he left the Constitutional Convention that people asked him what kind of government the delegates had developed for this new country and Franklin reportedly said, “A republic, if you can keep it.” Franklin’s response speaks volumes in a few words. Not only had the people of the former British colonies fought to grasp liberty for themselves as a nation, but they would have to continue struggling to maintain that liberty. There is a natural struggle within a representative form of government, such as this democratic republic of ours, to resist serving itself while serving the people. This is why our Founding Fathers labored so diligently to draft our Constitution and why they immediately determined to amend it with a Bill of Rights.
There is also a struggle among those people to resist creating a government that serves individuals versus the people as a nation. When governments and people serve themselves, the nation loses its liberty, and as we lose our liberty, we also lose our peace. So for the sake of peace, we struggle to maintain our liberty as a nation, which seems like an understatement in view of our current election season.
As Christians, we must do our part to maintain peace in our world, which has been true for all Christians throughout the history of the church, regardless of location or nationality. In 1 Timothy 2:1-4, Paul wrote:
I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone – for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.
Paul tells us that our primary means of maintaining peace is to pray for everyone, especially for “those in authority.” He also tells us that such peace allows us to live our lives “in all godliness and holiness.” Paul says that not only does this please God but it also contributes to God’s desire for all people to know the truth and be saved. In other words, Paul tells Christians to pray for their leaders in order to maintain peace, which allows us to live our lives according to God’s truth in the view of others so that they might be saved.
This kind of prayer for worldly leaders has enabled the church not only to survive but thrive, even under the authority of leaders who have opposed and persecuted Christians. How has the church thrived despite persecution? Because the church prays for its persecutors. Jesus made it pretty clear when he said in Matthew 5:44, “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” There’s no doubt that there are people who have opposed and persecuted the church throughout the centuries, and even in our country where “freedom of religion” is protected within the Bill of Rights, but there’s no doubt that God expects his people to love and pray for those people.
Certainly, there are times and people that push the limits of our love – it is an election year – but that reinforces the fact that our peace and liberty are worth the struggle. With every headline that makes us wonder about our elected officials – and those who elect them – we should find ourselves more determined to pray for them. And we should pray for them not so they change their minds and be more like “us” but so we might all live peacefully. As we all live in peace, our godly and holy living ought to be evidence of the truth of God’s Word and lead our so-called evidence to trust and follow God, too.