There was an early Church Father named Origen (184-254 AD). He was a scholar, theologian, and writer in Alexandria. He subscribed to a few notions than the Church does not consider orthodox (such as the pre-existence of souls) but, for the most part, he was highly respected and considered orthodox. He was considered an expert at textual criticism, biblical interpretation, and philosophical theology.
I appreciate a great many of his writings but one that stands out to me lately is how Christians serve the king better than anyone in the king's service. I appreciate this piece because there is a difficult tension in attempting to understand how Christians best serve others, especially the authorities and the nation of which they are a part. I don't believe the Church is to removed from the political sphere but I do believe she plays a unique role that no other entity can take on.
Origen brings some light on this tension. He writes,
"Our prayers defeat all demons who stir up war. Those demons also lead persons to violate their oaths and to disturb the peace. Accordingly, in this way, we are much more helpful to the kings than those who go into the field to fight for them. And we do take our part in public affairs when we join self-denying exercises to our righteous prayers and meditations, which teach us to despise pleasures and not to be led away by them. So none fight better for the king than we do. Indeed, we do not fight under him even if he demands it. Yet, we fight on his behalf, forming a special army - an army of godliness - by offering our prayers to God. And if Celsus would have us 'lead armies in defense of our country,' let him know that we do this too. And we do not do it for the purpose of being seen by men or for vainglory. For in secret, and in our own hearts, our prayers ascend on behalf of our fellow-citizens, as from priests. And Christians are benefactors of their country more than others. For they train up citizens and inculcate piety to the Supreme Being. And they promote to a divine and heavenly city those whose lives in the smallest cities have been good and worthy."
Origen makes clear that the battle Christians fight is not against flesh and blood but against principalities and the like. He makes clear that Christians use prayer as their weapon. In secret and not in fleshly battle, such as war, the Christian fights for others selflessly.
Seeking the peace and prosperity of one's nation is important to Origen, as it should be, and yet he shows that Christians seek this peace and prosperity not through the expected behaviors of those around them or even in authority over them but rather in a uniquely spiritual way which consists of prayer and various disciplines of worship.
Origen takes prayer seriously. He believes in it. He believes in demons. He is a Christian above all else and his theology instructs his behavior. This is why he refuses to serve in the military and claims that Christians are better servants than soldiers. In the practicing of being selfless and pure in conduct the Christian serves others well and becomes the model citizen, creating other model citizens.
I often wonder if I take my disciplines, prayers, nation, authorities, or the demons that inspire war as seriously as I ought. Origen persuades me that I don't. Origen persuades me that I should spend more time praying if I truly desire to see peace and prosperity in the nation I live in and the nations my land is at war with.