The Apostle Paul once wrote to his son in the faith, Timothy, strongly implying that we should live “peaceful and quiet lives.” I have to say, I’m all for that. Peaceful and quiet is right up my alley. The older I get, the more I enjoy that kind of life.
To put it in context, Paul told Timothy to pray for those in authority indicating that the by-product of such prayer would be peace and tranquility. We know he was speaking of governmental authority because he mentioned kings. His assumption, I suppose, was that, if it went well for the king, it would also go well for the king’s subjects.
Ga-Ga Over St. Paul
This seems to indicate that Paul had a somewhat positive view of kings and others in authority. He certainly believed that God put those governmental figures in place and that he did it for our own good (see Romans 13:1-5). This is one of the many reasons a lot of folks aren’t exactly ga-ga over the teachings of St. Paul. Remember—he’s also the one who told women not to wear gold or pearls and to shut up and have children. I’m probably overstating that a bit, but not by much. But, as they say, I digress.
So, we are to pray for those in authority that we might live peaceful and quiet lives. I wish he would have added something about voting for solid, godly authoritarians—people who had our best interests at heart. I will give him the benefit of the doubt on that point because there wasn’t a whole lot of voting going on in the time of Paul. It probably never even crossed his mind that the hoi polloi would be electing their own leaders one day. After all, history showed him that people weren’t particularly good at choosing leaders. Remember that his namesake (Saul) was chosen among his people to be the first King of Israel. That, of course, didn’t go so well. They were better off without him.
Unfortunately, we in the United States seem to be following in the footsteps of those early Israelites. We are constantly electing leaders that tend to give us heartburn. It doesn’t matter what party we opt to place in power (usually it’s a hodgepodge of parties), we end up with more chaos than quiet. So much for living peaceful lives.
I can only surmise that Paul never foresaw a time when we would choose our own Mayors, Senators, and Representatives, et. al. If God was placing these politicians into their respective offices, at least we could blame him. As it is, we can only blame ourselves. And if we could choose a king, I highly doubt as to whether we would do much of a better job than the Hebrews. They begged God for a king. They ended up with Saul who was tall, dark, and handsome (1 Samuel 9:1-2). These are criteria not unlike the ones we seem to use today. Oy vey!
[Dave Zuchelli is a graduate of Pittsburgh Theological Seminary and currently resides in Aldie, VA.]