Beloved: I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for everyone, for kings and all who are in high positions, so that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and dignity. This is right and is acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour, who desires everyone to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.
For there is one God; there is also one mediator between God and the human race, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself a ransom for all; this was attested at the right time.
For this I was appointed a herald and an apostle, a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and truth. I am telling the truth, I am not lying.
Paul reminds us to pray for kings and all in high positions, so that we can live a life focused on God. When the world is ticking along as it should and our kings rule like philosophers, we live like the hermits and cloistered nuns – consuming our daily bread, tilling our fields, and praising the Lord at all times.
But what does that mean for Christians when our kings don’t rule like philosophers? We have our example in the early Church. St. Justin Martyr wrote repeatedly to the Emperor Antoninus, pleading for toleration for Christians but also for social reforms like ending the practice of exposing unwanted children to the elements and leaving them to die. He no doubt prayed for the emperor and prayed for a peaceful life, but did not allow his hope for a peaceful life lead him to complacency. In the end, he walked the path of martyrdom in 165 A.D., one of many faithful early Christians whose words, deeds, and death inspired generations of future Christians.
So, we pray for those in power, but also urge them to do the right thing, even if it puts our lives at risk. We use what gifts and authority we must to speak truth to those in positions of power. One powerful modern-day example was Tommy Douglas, a Baptist minister who was also the Premier of Saskatchewan and national party leader of the NDP. His work in politics led him to champion the creation of our national Medicare system.
Today, our political system is caught up in identity politics and great division. We can be tempted to be more concerned about labels than we are about the work being done. The real work shouldn’t be political posturing, but making substantive change in the lives of our brothers and sisters. Do we love the poor? Do we care for those in need?
We heed Paul’s words and we pray for our leaders. We follow the example of St. Justin Martyr and Tommy Douglas and fight for a better world that cares for everyone as equals. What are the areas today where we can ask our politicians to make changes and pray for them as they do the necessary work, even when it’s not flashy or vote-grabbing? The fight for better supports for disability, mental health, and end of life are a good start. Those three areas are better supported now than they have been in human history, but we aren’t called to be complacent.
Asking people not to expose unwanted babies and championing our shared obligation to the healthcare of all Canadians is a powerful start. Championing robust supports for mental health, disability, and end of life care is another big step that we can advocate for in our lifetime. Every gain we make in the care of our neighbour brings us closer to a world where all people, regardless of income, race, gender, location or other characteristics can lead a quiet and peaceable life, in all godliness and dignity.