Christians and Country

“I know that the Lord is always on the side of the right; but it is my constant anxiety and prayer that I and this nation may be on the Lord’s side.”  – Abraham Lincoln

Introduction

In his first pastoral letter to Timothy, the Apostle Paul exhorts Christian believers to pray and uphold our community and political leaders, as this is good and pleasing in the sight of God. “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. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Saviour, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:1-4). Paul reminds us that our spiritual focus should not just be on our families, work and church, but should also involve praying for our nation and our leaders. Why is this so?

God as Creator

The Bible tells us that God is the Creator of heaven and earth, which includes all nations and tribes in every continent and islands of the world. The Psalmist affirms this truth: “For the kingdom is the Lord’s and He rules over the nations” (Psalm 22:28). “Be still and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations. I will be exalted in the earth!” (Psalm 46:10). Notwithstanding the fall of humanity into sin, God’s heart is still for wicked nations and people to repent of their wickedness and be delivered from His judgment and wrath which are sure to come upon all who rebel against Him. Most of us are familiar with the biblical narrative of Jonah and how he tried to run away from God’s calling for him to preach His message of warning and repentance to the great city of Nineveh, the capital of the Assyrian empire. Jonah could not accept the truth that God was not only the God of the Jewish people, but also the God of the pagan nations. The Apostle Peter reminds us of God’s desire for all people to come to repentance: “The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering towards us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9 NKJV).

Christ as Mediator

“For there is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus” (1 Timothy 2:5). Here Paul specifically teaches that Jesus is fallen humanity’s one and only means of access to God the Father. This affirms Peter’s words to the religious leaders of Israel when he declares at the end of his message to them: “And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).

The Jewish leaders and people would have understood the significance of Jesus as their mediator. In their tradition, sacrifices were presented for sins. These sacrifices were not a one-time event, but occurred throughout one’s lifetime. Paul contrasted these temporary offerings with the one-time sacrifice of Jesus on behalf of sinners. Through faith in Him, sin would be eternally forgiven, offering access to God and right standing before Him as His redeemed people.

The Church as Intercessor

Paul teaches us that Christ has founded the church by His sacrifice and completed work on the Cross, and has given His redeemed people the privilege and responsibility of being intercessors for our nation. Christ Himself reminds us that we are the light of the world, and we are to shine with His message of love and forgiveness for those who are perishing. One Christian pastor wrote: “We are the light of the world, but only when our switch is turned on.” We may feel that our prayers are weak or insignificant when it comes to interceding for our nation. And so this pastor further shared, “Our prayers may be awkward. Our attempts may be feeble. But since the power of prayer is in the One who hears it and not in the one who says it, our prayers do make a difference.” As we celebrate our 56th National Day tomorrow, may we be encouraged to pray for our nation as the Lord enables us to. Amen.

– Eld Elgin Chan