First of all, then, I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings be made on behalf of all men, for kings and all who are in authority, so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity. This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. (1 Timothy 2:1-4)
Can you imagine what Timothy thought when he read the letter from the Apostle Paul containing the above verses? Maybe something like – Paul, you’ve lost it this time. Emperor Nero needs to be hung from a tree, shot at sunup, knifed in the back, pushed over a cliff and crucified. Prayers! Why waste them on this rogue?
But did you know that historians portray Nero as being extremely popular with the common classes of people? He supported the freedman class by vetoing laws enacted by the Senate. He cut taxes. He removed harsh tax collectors. He removed tariffs on imported food. His public relief effort after the fire consisted of heavy government spending on construction projects. He tried to reform the government. And oh yes, he was a great orator. People loved to hear him speak, especially when he promised them goodies.
Nero had a major downside; he persecuted Christians. Squads of soldiers were dispatched throughout the empire to inquire of people, “Do you swear allegiance to Emperor Nero as your lord?”
Sadly, Christians were backed into a corner with the question. They had one Lord, Jesus. When they answered negatively, they were whisked off to arenas where they were covered with skins of animals and offered as prey for hungry lions. Or they were crucified. Or they were mounted on poles, covered with wax and used as candles for lawn parties.
It was not a good time to be a Christian. And yet, Paul stated that believers needed to pray for Nero and that this was good and acceptable in the sight of God.
So fast forward to 2009, we need to do the same for President Obama. Pray for him in every possible way. For Michelle. For Malia and Sasha. For his mother-in-law. For his aunt. For all of his administration. Why? So that we Christians can lead quiet and tranquil lives in all godliness and dignity.
But if President Obama steps over the line and asks us compromise our Christian principles, don’t bow your knees to him. Grab an animal skin and head for the lions’ den.
Swimming Upstream appears at this blog site on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. It’s a little of this and a little of that, all written to encourage and exhort believers in their Christian jouneys.