Exodus 20 v 12: Honour your father and your mother…
We sometimes think men put men into authority. The political code-word today is democracy but like all other systems, democracy can be manipulated to accomplish what the most dominant forces in a society please. In a democracy the people are supposed to elect their rulers. Often, especially in emerging countries, this system is accompanied by various forms of intimidation to ensure that certain people or parties take office. Thus sometimes evil or unsuitable people assume the reins of power. But we must not forget there is an overruling hand that guides the destinies of men. In 1 Timothy 2:1 we read that authorities must be prayed for. In 1 Peter 2:17 we are told that kings must be honoured. These verses do not refer merely to just and fair rulers but to unjust rulers as well. Paul was writing about the totalitarian regime and the local oppressors who were governing at the time.
Even though political leaders or emperors are often the most evil men, they nevertheless represent certain ideals for the country. They should encourage what is good and right as fathers would do in their families. And in the same way they should punish what is evil. Political ‘fathers’ should help the poor just as we should the needs in our families, but often they do not. Instead they may be a disappointment in every way. In such instances we are not to cover up the faults, mistakes or the injustices of those who are political fathers. But in our quest for justice we are still called to pray for them, honour them and to reason with them when we can. In fact, in Romans 13:5 where we are called upon to honour those in authority, we are told to do this ‘for conscience sake’ because we know it is the right thing to do.
This obviously has a bearing on how we behave politically. Christians have no right to engage in irresponsible political activity that encourages lawlessness or violence. Nor must they identify with evil men who seek to overturn the ruling order for their own ends. In our day and age many Christians have an opportunity to change things through the ballot box. We must be careful of taking the law into our own hands because by doing so we are not only encouraging a general spirit of lawlessness but we are in fact attempting to play God.
Lawful means of protest should be pursued if changes need to be made. Christians should be at the forefront of social change using all the lawful means at their disposal. More Christians should be involved in the political processes of our land and should not be afraid to let their voice be heard. But we must not lose sight of the spirit of respect for authority implied in this commandment. We must not behave like unbelievers.
Christians should be good citizens. Not unthinking citizens but good and wholesome in their lifestyles. If we can influence local government we should do so. But the very least we can do is pray fore God to overrule evil in our political and civil leaders and to bring about an increase in righteousness. Pray about this.