Respect for Government Leaders


Titus 3_1_2

Titus 3:1–7 (NRSV)  Remind them to be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good work, to speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show every courtesy to everyone.

For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, despicable, hating one another. But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of any works of righteousness that we had done, but according to his mercy, through the water of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit. This Spirit he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.

Paul’s final exhortation to Titus is to remind the church “to submit to the government.”  Paul has previously sent similar exhortations to Timothy (1 Tim. 2:1-7) and to the church in Rome (Rom. 13:1-7), similarly Peter wrote about the same topic.  (1 Peter 2:13-17)  These teachings by Paul and Peter may have their roots in Christ’s own teaching on how we should live as citizens and Christians (Matt. 22:17-21; Luke 20:25).  A fully developed teaching of Christian citizenship should take into account all these Scriptures.

In these verses, Paul reminds not only to submit to the governing authorities and to obey them, but also “to be ready for every good work,” (v. 1) and “to speak evil of no one” (v. 2).  One of the behaviors that I have noticed in recent years is the lack of civility in conversation about our president and our leaders both in the church and in society.  As Christians, Paul says, it is a sin to speak evil of our leaders.  And if you claim, well, it’s okay because they are not Christian leaders, remember who Paul was speaking about:  Nero!  Nero was one of the greatest persecutors of Christians of all the Emperors.  It is likely that both Peter and Paul were executed during the persecution begun by Nero.

We can disagree with our leaders, both church leaders and government leaders without being disrespectful.  I’m firmly convinced that much of the opposition to President Obama has its roots in prejudice.  And as shameful as it is to speak, many of those who have said horrible things about the president are those who would consider themselves Christians.  Paul’s command:  Don’t speak evil of anyone.  My grandmother’s admonition is still as good today as it was when I was a boy.  If you can’t say something good about someone, it’s better to say nothing at all.

Paul’s final words should govern all our social media:  Show respect for everyone.  Respect is one of the values that I learned serving in the US Army for almost 30 years.  Respect is a core value of the US Army.  You can show respect even when you disagree with people by how you speak to them.  Our current presidential campaign demonstrates the complete opposite:  disrespect.  It seems that the only way one can speak about one’s political opponents is to call them names and denigrate them, as if name calling and disrespect make one a viable candidate.  We haven’t even had a serious discussion of the issues to this date, because the entire campaign has been focused on this negativity.

But as Christians, we don’t have a choice.  Disrespect of our government leaders is a sin.  End of story.  Stop damaging your Christian witness online by the way you speak about our leaders.  Stop damaging your Christian witness with flaming e-mails.  It’s possible to disagree without disrespect.

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