Serving God’s Servants

Yesterday, I recounted the prayer service at the Indiana Statehouse. I suggested that, humanly speaking, it was such a success because Matt Barnes has worked to serve God by building trust with many leaders over many years. You might ask, “How can I minister to civil servants who God calls his servants?” Or “How can I go beyond talking and theorizing and actually be involved in seeing Christ glorified in civil government?”

Here are a few Scriptural guidelines to get you started:

1. Kiss the Son yourself. Psalm 2:12 says: “Kiss the Son.” In context, kings and rulers are those specifically called to bow before Jesus and to see that they serve him. But the verse ends: “Blessed are all who take refuge in him.” If you want to see your leaders submit to Christ, you must submit to him and commit to obeying his word. Earthly rulers will not listen to those whose lives and attitudes are inconsistent with their profession.

2. Know your governmental officials. Romans 13 says of the civil magistrate: “He is God’s servant for your good” and “the authorities are ministers of God.” If these are God’s ministers appointed for your good, you should know them. If you live in the United States, can you name your city and county officials, state representative and state senator? Have you met them? What is on their hearts? Remember that they are real people. They hurt, they joy, and they need redemption, just like all of us. To the extent appropriate, do you know about their personal lives such that you really can pray for them appropriately? If you do not know who your representatives are, begin online. Then, look for other ways to know them better. If you struggle to know what to say when you meet them, ask, “How can I pray for you?” It’s a disarming question, asked sincerely.

In addition to you knowing them, you might ask yourself, “Do they know me?” We are not to seek self-glory, but elected officials are usually elected because they do things like remembering people. If they don’t know you, the problem might not be theirs. One caveat: don’t test their knowledge of you. My grandfather served as a state representative, and he wisely instructed me to simply state my name whenever I reached out to shake hands with people of higher rank, even if they should know me. If you do the same, you’ll save them from embarrassment when they forget your name.

Finally, it’s my experience that most elected officials are a lot of fun to be around as people, even if I don’t agree with their positions. Again, it’s probably partly why they were elected. As you get to know them, you might just make some new friends, if nothing else.

3. Pray for them. Every day. 1 Timothy 2:1-2 says: “First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings 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.” Lead your children to pray for them. These who serve are usually under great stress. They face pressure from all directions. So, God call us to pray for them. Jesus also promises that whatever we ask in his name, he will do. The fruit will be peace and quiet.

Need to know how to pray? Ministries such as Capitol Commission can help. In Indiana, you can sign up for regular prayer requests and even be tweeted daily reminders from Matt Barnes to pray for certain individuals in authority.

4. Honor the emperor. Those were the words of Peter in 1 Peter 2:17 to Christians living under Nero. Consider honoring your leaders by writing a personal note to them to thank them for their service and to reassure them of your prayers for them and their loved ones. Few people despise others praying for them. As a pastor, it is always encouraging to hear that others are praying for me. Paul knew the value of such encouragement and so told the Thessalonians: “To this end we always pray for you…”

The more you honor your leaders, the more you are compelled to honor them. Once you’ve told your leaders you are praying for them, it becomes a lot harder to sit behind the safety of a computer screen and lob derogatory electronic grenades at God’s ministers.

5. Measure your words regarding policy decisions. “The heart of the wise makes his speech judicious and adds persuasiveness to his lips” says Proverbs 16:23. Begin by encouraging leaders in the wise decisions they make. Christians have a reputation of only being heard when they want to complain. Work to change that. Then, when the time comes to bring criticism or petition for certain action, make your speech judicious.

All Scripture quotes taken from the English Standard Version.

10 Comments

  1. Venkatesh January 7, 2012 at 12:06 am #

    James,

    Great post. I got a few tips on how to correct the ills besetting my country in addition to praying for my leaders.

    Venky

    • James Faris January 7, 2012 at 9:48 am #

      May the Lord save India!

      Your servant in Christ,
      James

  2. Kurt And-Shelley Fiech January 7, 2012 at 11:47 am #

    James, I wonder if we are truly considering the who counsel of God when it comes to our understanding of Romans 13, especially when we must admit that all civil governments are apostate and in rebellion against God. Here is a perspective that I think better explains Romans 13 in context of all of Scripture: http://vftonline.org/xmaspiracy/5/Romans13/index.htm#Everything

    • James Faris January 7, 2012 at 5:42 pm #

      Hi Kurt,

      Thanks for your comment and the link. Respectfully, I disagree with much of the exegesis and application outlined in the material on that website. We who write here at Gentle Reformation would point to the Westminster Confession of Faith chapter 23 as a sound summary of Scriptural teaching on the civil magistrate. Also, William Symington in his work, Messiah the Prince, masterfully lays out God’s perspective of the state as seen in the Bible. The good news is that Crown and Covenant (crownandcovenant.com) is preparing to reprint that historic work soon. You won’t want to miss it!

      James

  3. Kurt And-Shelley Fiech January 8, 2012 at 3:56 pm #

    Looking forward to some specifics regarding why you disagree with the exegesis and it’s application, especially since the Romans 13 & 1 Peter 2 passage references in the WCF do nothing to counteract a better, more consistent view in my link. Then, when we look at Ephesians 6:12 & 1 Samuel 8 (Israel rejected God for a human king), we see that God ordained (predestined) these evil man-ruled, God-rejecting, supra-familial civil governments to carry out His will (example of Pharaoh), just as He uses Satan (call to mind Job) to carry out His will. We are to submit to them, but they are apostate and evil as ALL civil governments have been as they ALL have rejected God’s Law and put in place their own man-made laws that tyrannize the people. See 1 Samuel 8 again, to see that God predicted this!

    I know it is a fundamental change from the WCF, but we need to be honest and consistent with all of Scripture.Even the WCF admits it can be in error (Chapter 31:4), so it must “never be taken as a substitute for God’s Word or as a complete or final exposition of it.” (Page A-102,The Constitution of the RPCNA).

    Over time, over the past 220+ years it has been in existence, RPCNA has rejected other parts of the 350+ year-old WCF. We desperately need a more thorough fleshing out of this important subject, not being afraid to make another change in the WCF once again in the spirit of “semper reformanda.”

    • Venkatesh January 9, 2012 at 1:19 am #

      Hello,

      Is your position that the institution of civil magistrate is in itself evil? Or are you saying that all governments today are evil because they do not follow God’s law (and if they did, they would not be evil)? I went through your site, but this was not quite clear to me.

    • James Faris January 9, 2012 at 12:40 pm #

      Again, Kurt, I would simply point you to Symington’s Messiah the Prince as the finest handling of this subject. It well summarizes what the Scripture teaches and interacts with these various passages you reference.

  4. Kurt And-Shelley Fiech January 10, 2012 at 9:06 am #

    Ventatesh,

    Just as God did not ordain man to sin, God did not ordain that man set up supra-familial civil governments, like he ordained the family. ALL civil governments have been evil since the beginning except 1) the start of ancient Israel with God as king and His law to govern civil behavior, and 2) perhaps the American “experiment.” Note that both ancient Israel and the American “experiment” eventually rejected God as their king.and rejected God’s Law as their standard of civil behavior.

  5. Kurt And-Shelley Fiech January 10, 2012 at 9:22 am #

    Dear Gentle Reformation readers,

    If you want to buy the book – Messiah the Prince Or, The Meditorial Dominion of Jesus Christ – now, it is available here: http://amzn.to/w6SRb7

    If you want to view for free online, as a pdf, or on your kindle, it is available here: http://amzn.to/w6SRb7

  6. Kurt And-Shelley Fiech January 10, 2012 at 9:23 am #

    Sorry. The free version is here: http://www.archive.org/details/messiahtheprince00symiuoft

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