Pray for Your Enemies, Pray for Your Leaders
This is for me because I am often extremely bad about this. Perhaps it is for you too.
Irenaeus was a second century Christian. He is often called a “Church Father,” and he deserves the title. He wrote a fascinating book called Against Heresies. In it he fights against various early Christian bad guys, like the Gnostics and Marcion. There’s lots of interesting arguments in the book, some good, some bad. About halfway through the five books of this work, after many critiques of his enemies, he says this:
We do indeed pray that these men may not remain in the pit which they themselves have dug, but separate themselves from a Mother of this nature, and depart from Bythus (the highest god in one of the gnostic systems he describes), and stand away from the void, and relinquish the shadow; and that they, being converted to the Church of God, may be lawfully begotten, and that Christ may be formed in them, and that they may know the Framer and Maker of this universe, the only true God and Lord of all. We pray for these things on their behalf, loving them better than they seem to love themselves. For our love, inasmuch as it is true, is salutary to them, if they will but receive it. It may be compared to a severe remedy, extirpating the proud and sloughing flesh of a wound; for it puts an end to their pride and haughtiness. Wherefore it shall not weary us, to endeavor with all our might to stretch out the hand unto them. Over and above what has been already stated, I have deferred to the following book, to adduce the words of the Lord; if, by convincing some among them, through means of the very instruction of Christ, I may succeed in persuading them to abandon such error, and to cease from blaspheming their Creator, who is both God alone, and the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen. (Against Heresies 3.25.7).
Wouldn’t it be easer to just hate them? It certainly would be natural.
You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect. (Matt 5:43–48, ESV)
I can’t tell you that Irenaeus didn’t ever let his temper get the best of him. He was human, so I assume he did. But here, at least, he shows himself to be a student of Jesus.
Pray for Your Leaders
Do you ever have a problem hating your enemy? What do you do when your country’s leadership is your enemy? Paul has some advice.
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. (1 Tim 2:1–2, ESV)
But what if we don’t like them? We Christians have a duty to pray for them. Do you love them enough to do so? Do you love God enough to do so?
But what if you think they are pushing for policies that are anti-Christian? You should pray for them. Do you love them enough to do so? Do you love God enough to do so?
But what if you think they are often godless, aligning themselves with the church to deceive it, being wolves posing as sheep? You should pray for them. Do you love them enough to do so? Do you love God enough to do so?
Honestly, I find it difficult, but I try. It is something about which I frequently have to repent.
Critique Your Leaders, Vote Out Your Leaders
Praying for your leaders, and even loving them, doesn’t mean you should vote for them. Believe it or not, loving them doesn’t even mean that you have to like them. It doesn’t mean that you should avoid critiquing them. It certainly doesn’t mean you should make excuses for them when they are wrong. Quite the opposite! Take Irenaeus as your example in this. He can critique his enemies all day long, but he has the right goal. “We pray for these things on their behalf, loving them better than they seem to love themselves. For our love, inasmuch as it is true, is salutary to them, if they will but receive it. It may be compared to a severe remedy, extirpating the proud and sloughing flesh of a wound; for it puts an end to their pride and haughtiness. Wherefore it shall not weary us, to endeavor with all our might to stretch out the hand unto them.”
While the president and all the rest are in power, you should pray for them. The Scriptures tell you to do so. And when it comes time to vote, vote for those you think will do the most good.
What To Do?
If you are a Christian, Paul urges you to pray for your leaders. Whether you can’t stand Trump (I’m with you), or whether you like him, pray for him. Whether you think Pelosi is bad (I’m with you), or whether you like her, pray for her. If you think some of your state leadership is crazy, pray for them too. When I can manage to follow my own advice on this, I find that it’s harder to be bitter, more difficult to wallow in inappropriate hate, and easier have hope.
Improve the conversation by checking your sources. Social media and conversation with your friends is not a court of law, so you can assume everything you read is guilty until proven innocent. Go ahead and assume that the media on all sides, social or mainstream, is extremely biased and probably lying to you. Check your sources before you retweet that extremely negative thing about whomever. Think (and pray) before you retweet that story. Maybe you can help by pointing out the lie. Or maybe you will come to realize that tweeting about it won’t do any good anyway.
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