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June 6, 2008 / beidson

Political Conversation: Speaking About Kings and All Who Are In Authority

In the weeks and months ahead, we are sure to hear and be part of a lot of political conversation.  Some of these conversations will be cool and calm and some will be heated and fierce.  But we must not think that our tongues may be loose and free to say whatever we like about political candidates.  Sure, they are center stage, and there is a certain amount of criticism that may be expressed due to the nature of politics, but being in the spotlight doesn’t mean that those of us off stage can speak without limits.  The fact is, there are limits to what we can say, and Scripture makes this very clear.

Scripture tells us, “(Let) supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanskgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way” (1 Timothy 2:1-2).  Far from unfettered criticism, Scripture actually demands the restraint of our tongues, and not only this, but also the positive use of our tongues for those who rule over us.

This means that we ought to pray for our political leaders, rather than curse them and mock them, as if they were more guilty of sin than us, or as if they were somehow subhuman and liable to the verbal scourgings of anyone who disagreed with them.  Does this mean that we  ought to blindly follow our leaders into evil and treacherous shcemes?  Of course not; there is a time for political action and political revolution, but even then, our methods, and particularly our minds and hearts, are to be conformed to Scripture.  We go wrong when we think that our political conversations are exempt from the authority of Scripture.  They are not.

James 3:8-10 says, ” . . . but no human being can tame the tongue.  It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.  With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God.  From the same mouth come blessing and cursing.  My brothers, these things ought not to be so.”  This is unmistakably clear: we cannot praise God and then turn and curse the president, or our sentors, or our mayors, or our policemen.  We may disagree with them, and we may express our disagreements both privately and publicly, but our tongues are not free to rip people apart.  Jesus is Lord of our tongues.  He is Lord of political conversations.

What does this mean for us?  Well, it means that we ought to be praying for our leaders rather than cursing and belittling them.  This goes for our former presidents, our current president, and our future presidents.  No matter how much we may hope and pray that a certain candidate does not become president (senator, etc.), the fact is, if he/she becomes the president, we must trust in the sovereign purposes of God and pray for him/her.  This might be incredibly hard to do, especially if the candidate disregards Scripture on matters of life and death, such as abortion, euthanasia, war, capital punishment, etc.  But nevertheless, God requires humility in us when we speak of our leaders.

I personally have a great problem with any person who believes that a woman’s choice trumps the value of her unborn child.  This says volumes about a politician’s entire worldview; it is not merely a political position.  But the Scripture makes demands of my tongue: it prohibits evil speech and it commands prayer, intercession and thanksgiving.  How can I praise God and then turn around and curse my president, who is made in God’s image?  This cannot be so.

And we must not forget world leaders as well.  Just because they are physically far removed from us does not mean we are free to speak freely about them without restraint.  We ought to be praying for them as well, that the Lord would change their hearts, if necessary, and change ours, if that too is in order.

Who will be the next president?  Obama?  McCain?  Only God knows.  But this we do know: they ought to be in our prayers even now, and when we huddle around the breakroom at work, they ought to still be in our prayers.  Why?  Because Jesus is Lord.  When he was cursed, he did not curse in return.  Like a lamb being led to the slaughter, he was silent and did not open his mouth.  He has tamed the tongue, and he will use that tongue to judge our leaders at the appointed time.  But he will judge us too for the way we have used our tongues in political conversation.

So do not let the restlessness of the tongue keep you from sleeping on the night of November 4.  Give thanks to God for whatever happens, so that we may lead peaceful and quiet lives, godly and dignified in every way.  This means that the first place to have political conversation is on our knees in prayer, so that when we do gather in the breakroom at work we will have already gotten a grip on our tongues.  Because, the fact is, you cannot praise God at home and then curse God’s image-bearers at the office.  These things cannot be so, not even in political conversation.   

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