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Civil conduct in an incivil time

You have to be living on a mountain with no electronic devices to escape the tsunami of partisan vitriol that is overtaking our nation, triggered by the impeachment trial and the upcoming presidential election.

Both events undoubtedly evoke strong opinions and emotions. As American citizens who are also followers of Jesus, our faith should inform our convictions. However, we must remember that the church was never tasked with promoting a partisan political agenda. Our calling is to care for souls. As such we ought to pray for our leaders and for God’s direction for our nation.

The apostle Peter wrote his epistles at a time when political freedom did not exist. The head of state was Nero, the emperor who made sport of persecuting Christ-followers. Our political turmoil pales in comparison to the brutality experienced elsewhere in the world. Peter shows us how believers ought to respond even if their political atmosphere is repressive.

“ For the Lord’s sake, submit to all human authority — whether the king as head of state, or the officials he has appointed. For the king has sent them to punish those who do wrong and to honor those who do right. It is God’s will that your honorable lives should silence those ignorant people who make foolish accusations against you.” (1 Peter 2:13-15. NLT)

We’re to voluntarily acknowledge and respect our governmental leaders even if we don’t agree with them, knowing they have a greater Authority to whom they must give account. God hears and answers prayers for our leaders.

Since we live in a democracy where our voice can be heard, we should urge our leaders to reward what is right and punish evil: this is their divine assignment. We ought to be a voice for the voiceless and a voice for justice.

In AD 64, a devastating fire swept through Rome. Nero falsely blamed Christians for starting the blaze and instigated a wave of persecution against them while building a new palace on the razed ground. God’s chosen method to silence fabrications against believers is not retaliation but integrity: we’re to live out “honorable lives” that prove the accusations false.

In short, we ought to be concerned, involved citizens but also remember we can have a lasting impact regardless of which partisan side prevails. Peter concludes by reminding us to Whom our allegiance really lies: “For you are free, yet you are God’s slaves, so don’t use your freedom as an excuse to do evil. Respect everyone, and love the family of believers. Fear God, and respect the king.” (1 Peter 2:16-17)

So let’s use our freedoms to voice our opinions, but also to pray for our leaders and treat with respect those who disagree with us. That can have a bigger impact on ourselves and others than we may realize.

Pastor Don Baumann of Hilltop Community Church is a member of the Carson Valley Minister’s Association.