We have been contemplating how Christians should view and treat earthly authorities. Paul has clearly stated that we should both submit and give appropriate honor to them. We must also follow Jesus’ example of not reviling those who mistreat us, even if they are earthly authorities.
It must be understood, however, that simply avoiding a sour attitude and slanderous speech against earthly rulers is not enough. The New Testament also instructs us to pray for them! Consider I Timothy 2:1-4:
“Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men, for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.”
We are to pray for our leaders, particularly in two fundamental ways: (1) That there might be stability while they govern (which will benefit all people desiring to live tranquil lives), and (2) That they might come to a knowledge of God’s truth, believe, obey, and be saved. Notice that Paul gives this advice regardless of how moral or immoral the leader may be! Christians should pray for the spiritual well-being of their leaders as well as their own physical well-being while under the authority of the leaders.
If one truly petitions God on behalf of his leaders, he will not be quick to slander those same people (cf. James 3:9-12). This is certainly one reason why Jesus instructs His followers to pray for those who persecute them (cf. Matt. 6:44). It is harder to mistreat or speak inappropriately against one for whom you are genuinely praying.
Titus 3:1,2 is also relevant here – “Remind them to be subject to the rulers and authorities, to obey, to be ready for every good work, to speak evil of no one, to be peaceable, gentle, showing all humility to all men.” The Christian is to speak evil of no one! Paul could not have worded that prohibition in a broader fashion. Now let’s make application. Is it proper for us to slander the wicked? No. It is proper for us to slander our enemies? No. Is it proper for us to slander the earthly powers that be when they don’t do as we desire? No. It is wrong to slander anyone for any reason. How could Paul be any plainer? “Be subject to the rulers and authorities…obey…speak evil of no one…be peaceable, gentle, showing all humility to all men.” Friends, slanderous tongues belong to sinners, not saints!
Although my observations are limited and could therefore be mistaken, I believe slander is a sin that isn’t talked about very often in the brotherhood. However, the New Testament writers have made it clear that Christians must not speak evil of others–period. In addition to the passages we have already read, consider two more:
Ephesians 4:29-31 – “Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers, and do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice.”
I Peter 2:1 – “Therefore, laying aside all malice, all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and all evil speaking.”
We will conclude this study in our next lesson.