“And now, O Lord my God, you have made your servant king in place of David my father, although I am but a little child. I do not know how to go out or come in. And your servant is in the midst of your people whom you have chosen, a great people, too many to be numbered or counted for multitude. Give your servant therefore an understanding mind to govern your people, that I may discern between good and evil, for who is able to govern this your great people?”
It pleased the Lord that Solomon had asked this. And God said to him, “Because you have asked this, and have not asked for yourself long life or riches or the life of your enemies, but have asked for yourself understanding to discern what is right, behold, I now do according to your word. Behold, I give you a wise and discerning mind, so that none like you has been before you and none like you shall arise after you.” I Kings 3:7-12 (ESV)
The complex system that makes up the local and state governments along with the federal government in the United States is both sprawling and deeply influential in the lives of its citizens. That’s not a value judgment; it’s simply a fact. Consider its span: from local traffic laws and permits (one of which I recently had to obtain in order to raise six chickens on my property), to national environmental policy and foreign affairs, and the collateral industrial complex that includes electioneering, the media, lobbying, contractors and consultants. Given its scope, influence, and importance, we should seek the Lord’s favor over the system of laws, institutions, and people that make up our government.
What does Scripture prize in terms of governing? Justice, benevolence, mercy, wisdom, discernment, integrity, compassion, competence, objectivity, humility, fortitude, fairness -- we could go on! Governing is a big job and it is full of complexity, risk, and consequences. Our legislators, governors, and justices (and everyone else who is involved in the functioning of our government) need our prayers. How does Scripture guide us here? It teaches us to pray that our leaders in government would exhibit and exercise the qualities listed above. And, further, that our Christian leaders would be faithful witnesses to the Lord Jesus in their conduct, speech, and work. Because of the presence of sin, no person (let alone group of people) governs as he or she should. So we should also pray that evil would be restrained and justice would prevail. Pray that every leader would turn to Scripture for wisdom, guidance, and discernment: “But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere” (James 3:17).
Government is not our hope, though it does serve a useful purpose. God’s Word itself describes it as a “God’s servant” (literally “minister” (Romans 13:4)). So let’s pray that it would play its role as it should, as a servant:
- Pray that every Christian would desire Christ’s name to be glorified.
- Pray that every Christian would remember that Jesus reigns and rules over all things and that earthly governments are not ultimate.
- Pray that our government would value the governing qualities that Scripture sets forth.
- Pray for Christians who are in positions of governmental leadership. Pray that they would live godly and devout lives, and faithfully give witness to Jesus as appropriate.
Interim Director, Christian Union at Cornell
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Selected Resources to Explore for a Cultural Revolution in Government
ARTICLE (2 pages): The Role of Government—and Christian Citizens by John Stonestreet
John Stonestreet, president of The Chuck Colson Center and BreakPoint Radio Co-Host, writes a succinct and salient article related to the questions many American Christians ask today. What is the role of the government and how should Christians live today and interact with their governing officials?
AUDIO (1:04:26): Christian Leadership in Government and Politics
Mark Tooley, President of the Institute on Religion and Democracy and editor of IRD's foreign policy and national security journal, Providence gave this seminar at the Christian Union Nexus Conference 2017. Nexus is an annual conference that equips students and professionals to seek God and to live out their faith and change culture.
AUDIO (1:31:41): Vocational Panel on Government
This panel discussion was recorded at the Christian Union Conference, 2014. The panelists were Fernando Cabrera, New York City Councilman and Senior Pastor of New Life Outreach International in the Bronx, Marlise Streitmatter, who served as Deputy Chief of Staff at the U.S. Department of Transportation, and previously worked at The World Bank and the U.S. Department of Defense, and Scott Turner, businessman, motivational speaker and former Texas state representative.
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