October 22, 2011 1 Comment
You can’t help but wonder what must be going through the minds of some of the world’s leaders this weekend. I especially think President Assad of Syria and maybe King Hamad of Bahrain must look upon the ghastly pictures of Colonel Gaddafi’s last moments and fear they’re looking into their own futures. Indeed with hindsight it still seems so surprising that, after Muammar Gaddafi’s seeming rehabilitation to the main stage of world diplomacy (recall the 2004 deal in the desert with Tony Blair), things could so quickly and emphatically turn against him. Who would have predicted it a year ago (and maybe there are now a lot more dictators looking over their shoulders)?
What can prove to be difficult theology goes along with some of these issues, especially when we consider what the Bible teaches about those who are put in positions of authority. Take as an example what the prophet Daniel said about his God:
Blessed be the name of God forever and ever, For wisdom and might are His. And He changes the times and the seasons; He removes kings and raises up kings; He gives wisdom to the wise And knowledge to those who have understanding. He reveals deep and secret things; He knows what is in the darkness, And light dwells with Him.
This is very similar to how the Lord Jesus replied to Pontius Pilate when Pilate asked him, ‘Do You not know that I have power to crucify You, and power to release You?’:
Jesus answered, “You could have no power at all against Me unless it had been given you from above. Therefore the one who delivered Me to you has the greater sin.”
It might not sit all too comfortably with us at times, but it is God who raises up and who deposes world leaders. Sometimes these are godless rulers and sometimes oppressive (and sometimes good), but God is working out His purposes in the midst of all of these things. Let’s not forget, however, that God will call those who have ruled wickedly to justice (cf. Babylon’s king in (e.g.) Isaiah 14:18-23). There are also difficult dividing lines for us as Christians in how we are to relate to those in authority over us. Take Paul’s words, for example:
Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God. Therefore whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will bring judgment on themselves.
This is also to be coupled with what we should especially be praying for when we pray for those in authority over us:
Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men, for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence.
1 Timothy 2:1-2
The Christian is not to be a troublemaker or a subversive, but is to seek to pray for liberty to live lives of godliness; though this is not to say that Christians shouldn’t be active in politics or seek to influence rulers to legislate better. Of course there are exceptions, and this comes when to adhere to the rule of a government (or dictator) would contravene the rule of God in our lives. The early disciples made the stand against the religious rulers of their time “We must obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29).
This is mostly theory for me as I sit in the north-east of Scotland in 2011 – but not mere theory for all Christians. Do pray for Pastor Youcef Nadarkhani in Iran. He is a married father of two appealing against a death sentence for apostasy (he converted from Islam to Christianity). He has already been imprisoned for a period of years and has consistently refused to renounce his faith in Jesus Christ, despite knowing that the penalty of death would be lifted if he did so. The final decision rests with the Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Khamenei and is expected within the next couple of weeks (why have we heard next to nothing about this in our media??). Pray for those at the coal face…