“Nero,” About.com. Paul likely wrote 1 Timothy when this persecutor of Christians was in power.
Even though Christians are free regardless of their present earthly circumstances, it doesn’t mean they should wish to be in the deplorable conditions of a North Korean prison camp. With the spread of Christianity comes the spread of freedom and believers should desire that the spiritual freedom they possess be reflected by social and political freedom for the society in which they live.
Though Christianity has by no means been eradicated in the United States, secularism advances rapidly. Because Christians know that eventually the rise of religious intolerance will be manifested through covert then overt persecution of Christians, the advance of secularism has been met with a degree of fear and foreboding by the church. Some writers, like The American Conservative’s Rod Dreher, are responding by advocating a strategic retreat known as the Benedict Option. “The ‘Benedict Option’ refers to Christians in the contemporary West who cease to identify the continuation of civility and moral community with the maintenance of American empire, and who therefore are keen to construct local forms of community as loci of Christian resistance against what the empire represents.” There is no doubt that the American church needs to divorce itself from identifying Christ’s values with the values of 21st Century America. And while a Christian living in a representative democracy has as much right to desire his society reflect his values as anyone else, the Bible provides guidance as to what Christians should prioritize as most important when participating in the political arena.
In whatever way believers get involved in the politics of their generation, prayer is priority one. “First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior…” (1 Tim. 2:1-3). Four different aspects of prayer are highlighted here and this presents a challenge for Christians who disagree with their leaders: we are to not only “pray, pray, pray” for them, but to also give thanks for them! Some Christians find this appeal challenging enough when their leaders are reactionary Republicans or demagogue-ic Democrats, but imagine the believers in Hitler’s Germany or Stalin’s Russia or Mao’s China who read these same instructions. Regardless of the leader, prayers on that person’s behalf should be continually on the lips of the believer.
In offering prayers for those in authority, Christians have a purpose: “…that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way.” Unjust wars are going to be waged. High taxes are going to be charged. Believers have a role to play in preventing these things, but the declared end of the prayers offered on behalf of leaders is so that Christians can live a life unmolested by government. The Christian wants his government to, as much as possible, leave him alone. In response Christians live a life filled with godly deeds and do not seek unnecessary trouble. The Christian, then, is not primarily concerned with leadership who govern righteously but with a government that leaves him alone so that Christians can have maximum opportunity to live righteously themselves.