I am writing this just after the conclusion of the National Conventions of America’s two major political parties. Much of our primetime television in the past two weeks has focused on these two conventions, the speakers, speeches, fact-checking efforts, and political reactions. Now more than ever, our nation is focused on one election (although many will occur in November): Who will be our next President?
Both campaigns have shown, and will continue to show, just how negative their advertisements can be with respect to each other. I don’t believe it’s pessimistic at all to suggest that the next several weeks might be full of attack ads and fiercely negative communication from both sides.
In your devotional time, take a few moments to read Romans 13. In this short chapter, Paul encourages Christians to submit to the governing authorities. Remember that these people were living in Rome, the center of the Roman Empire and primary location of persecution of Christians in the early years of our movement. For Christians to submit to the Roman emperor must have been very difficult indeed, especially when some of those emperors (such as Nero, Domitian, and Tragan) executed Christians regularly.
This chapter agrees with Jesus’s teachings in Matthew 22:34-40 that fulfilling God’s law is summarized by the requirement to “love your neighbor as yourself.” Paul encourages this way of living through “understanding the present time”: the time of salvation was drawing close for Paul and the early Christians. This may suggest a belief in the second coming of Jesus Christ, which is always drawing closer, or it may reflect the potential for early Christians’ lives to end quickly due to Roman persecution. In either case, understanding the present time was crucial for the church’s success in dealing with the hardships they were facing.
Friends, as we approach this presidential election, let us remember to pray for our elected leaders. Let us give thanks that we do not face violent persecution for our faith, nor do we experience violent transitions of power like many other people groups throughout history. Let us submit to our governing authorities, pay taxes, give respect and honor where it is due, and love our neighbors as ourselves. No matter what the result of the election – whether you are pleased or displeased, frightened or calmed by it – remember that “our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed.” Clothe yourself with the Lord Jesus Christ!