Saturday, 29 September 2012
Let me tackle a scripture that I, personally, am having a problem with. Given the current administration in these United States, I am having a problem with the admonition of Exodus 22:28, “You shall not revile God, nor curse a ruler of your people.”
The Apostle, Paul, in spite of all he went through, completely understood it. In Acts 23:1-5 there came an incident of physical abuse that highlights his understanding and acceptance of the Old Testament admonition. In Acts we see Paul demonstrating it:
Then Paul, looking earnestly at the council, said, ‘Men and brethren, I have lived in all good conscience before God until this day’ and the high priest Ananias commanded those who stood by him to strike him on the mouth. Then Paul said to him, ‘God will strike you, you whitewashed wall! For you sit to judge me according to the law, and do you command me to be struck contrary to the law?’ And those who stood by said, ‘Do you revile God’s high priest?’ Then Paul said, ‘I did not know, brethren, that he was the high priest; for it is written, ‘You shall not speak evil of a ruler of your people.’
Such was Paul’s direct referral to Exodus 22:28.
Here we see both men in the wrong, along with the cast and crew of the High Priest. The physical abuse of striking Paul, the unlawful order to do it, then the reaction of Paul to that abuse. Now most certainly Paul had a reason to complain about the treatment. Physical abuse of a prisoner is not sanctioned and the order from the Priest, being illegal, could have been challenged, or at the least questioned. But what about Paul’s answer?
Under the same situation, I would have responded with a much stronger and maybe censurable complaint. So what about his manner? That was where he went wrong. The response, under normal situations, would have been personal and was insulting the high priest in his office. Paul called him “a whitewashed wall.”
What do you do when you whitewash a wall? You cover outside defects. Well, he may have been, but it was not up to Paul to make such a pronouncement. Let me give you an example from current history that I was made aware of in Korea.
During the war, a fairly new Second Lieutenant told a Sergeant to take his squad of infantry men into a certain area called “the snake pit.” This was an area of the North Korean line of resistance that no one ever survived. Between the overlapping fields of fire by several automatic weapons, and the dense mine field, there was a 100% chance of no one returning. The Sergeant refused and in the process, told the Lieutenant what he thought of him.
It turned out that the company commander knew of the area but never told the Lieutenant to go in nor send anyone else in. However, the manner of which the sergeant refused the order was grossly wrong. If the sergeant had only acted properly, the company commandeer could have straightened the whole thing out. But, since the sergeant had acted like he did, he had to face courts martial. It all boils down to a simple rule. Unless the order is illegal, obey; if the order is illegal, appeal.
Back to the Apostle Paul and the high priest. Paul applied this law to himself and his daily life. Can we do any less? I think not. Reading in front of, in back of, above and below, and find no exceptions. This law is valid to followers of Jesus Christ. Note that in 1 Peter 2:9-10, we are referred to as a royal priesthood, a holy nation; and we may claim the praises of Him who called us out of darkness into His marvelous light.” That puts us in authority. The big problem is that before we can be in authority, we must first learn to be subject to authority. You must be before you can do. We once were not a people but now are of the people of God.
In discussing the occupant of a federal office, one man reasoned, over a cup of coffee, that since the holder of an office was corrupt, the office was corrupt. No, the holder of the office is responsible for bringing honor to the office. It corresponds to my physical father being absent from my life. It is not my responsibility how I came into this world but it is my responsibility how I conduct my life now that I am here. I am responsible to God for my own actions. So, if you have a complaint against the way I conduct my life, talk to God about it. Such is why the Apostle Paul answered the way he did. Paul was a responsible person!
Yes, I have broken the commandment often. I admit I have a problem in separation of office and office holder. I am, I hope getting better at keeping them separate. Not so I may criticize the holder, I have no license to do that. While I may disagree with the office holder; while I may point out his or her problems while holding the office; while I am free to work to having the person voted out of office; I should never take the situation personal. Nor should I judge motives.
“Who are you to judge someone else's servant? To his own master he stands or falls. And he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand." (Romans 14:4)
“Brothers, do not slander one another. Anyone who speaks against his brother or judges him speaks against the law and judges it. When you judge the law, you are not keeping it, but sitting in judgment on it. There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the one who is able to save and destroy. But you—who are you to judge your neighbor?” (James 4:11-12)
I must learn how to be in disagreement, without being disagreeable. Instead, we will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ, who is the head of his body, the church. (Ephesians 4:15)
Righteous lips are the delight of a king, and he loves him who speaks what is right. (Proverbs 16:13)
How do you feel about scriptures that instruct us not to curse those in office, even those we disagree with? Do you have a difficult time putting these scriptures into practice? How do we follow God's instruction on this subject? How do we disagree with those in authority while still speaking about them in Christian love?