Scripture Focus: Genesis 21.2-24
22 At that time Abimelek and Phicol the commander of his forces said to Abraham, “God is with you in everything you do. 23 Now swear to me here before God that you will not deal falsely with me or my children or my descendants. Show to me and the country where you now reside as a foreigner the same kindness I have shown to you.”
24 Abraham said, “I swear it.”
25 Jesus called them together and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. 26 Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, 27 and whoever wants to be first must be your slave—28 just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
Reflection: Abimelek, Caesar, and Jesus
By John Tillman
Abimelek was a pagan king with his own gods and sinful practices. His descendants would be Israel’s enemies. Yet, he is one of a very short list of people to whom God spoke directly in a dream. (Genesis 20.1-6) Abraham, by God’s command, prayed for Abimelek, blessed him, and lived under Abimelek’s rule, making a treaty with him.
Rulers are established by God, (Romans 13.1-10) but establishing does not mean endorsing. Far from it. Rulers, good or evil, are used by God for good purposes, but every ruler will be held accountable by God.
As the “watchman on the wall” is responsible for the lives of those he serves, (Ezekiel 33.1-9) leaders will be held to account for evil, injustice, and violence under their rule. Whether evil is done at their command, committed by their followers, occurs through negligence, or merely remains unpunished, God will judge rulers.
Jesus’ assessment of Roman leadership is true of our leaders today. Indeed, most democracies around the world looked with rose-colored, Western-centric glasses, to the Romans and Greeks for inspiration in founding modern governments. They saw the ideals but not the dirty business and corruption that Jesus knew up close.
The disciples and the crowds that followed Jesus constantly thought Jesus would take over the government. Even right up to the moment of the ascension, they thought, “Now. He’s going to tell us to fight for him now.” (Acts 1.6-9) They were wrong.
Believers today who feel a religious compunction to political violence are serving an idolatrous, man-made religion, not Jesus.
They are not following the same Jesus who left his disciples politically powerless. They are not following the same Jesus who commanded his followers to wait for spiritual power instead of grasping political power. They are not following the same Jesus who commanded his friends to put down their swords and take up their crosses.
God’s people have lived peaceably under governments of all different kinds. God’s people have been faithful under rulers with vastly differing degrees of personal morality, honor, and respect for God.
No matter the morality or immorality of our leaders, Christians are responsible to be servants of a different kingdom and to exercise power in the opposite way the world does.
It is in serving that we will lead.
It is in suffering that we will conquer.
It is in dying that we will live.
From John: Writing this two days away from the inauguration of Joe Biden, tensions are high. Suspicions of violence are in the air. Personal friends and former ministry partners may be among those sympathizing with violence against the United States government. It has been a week of personal mourning and lament. We pray today that all believers would be citizens of peace, submitted to their governments in humility and grace. Only in the proclamation of the gospel do we have leave to obey God rather than men. In all other things, we submit.
Photo Credit: Tyler Merbler from USA, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons
Divine Hours Prayer: A Reading
Jesus said to us: “In truth I tell you, anyone who does not welcome the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” — Luke 18.17
– Divine Hours prayers from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Autumn and Wintertime by Phyllis Tickle
Genesis 21 (Listen – 3:59)
Matthew 20 (Listen – 4:22)
Read more about Misleading the Least
Woe to leaders who mislead…cause others to stumble…manipulate…foment sin…lie and deceive…
Read more about Responding to Political Violence
It seems more and more Christians are willing to whitewash politically motivated violence as necessary self-defense.