Dedicated believers were confronted by a critical problem 150 years ago during USA’s Civil War. It was a testing time as these pioneers realized they had a higher citizenship. Paul wrote, “our citizenship is in heaven” (Philippians 3:20). There is a parallel between a war of swords and a war of words, those who believe and fear God can engage in neither. The “soft answer” (Proverbs 15:1) is rarely practiced today. Our God and Saviour are the highest authority; we read in Hebrews that the divine authority functions by “discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart … (and) … no creature is hidden from his sight” (Hebrews 4:12,13).
1 Timothy includes some valuable principles for our lives for these days. Timothy has been left at Ephesus to help the converts there grow spiritually (1:3) and the advice in Paul’s letter to him highlights that our foremost allegiance is to “the king of the ages, immortal, the only God”, to whom “be honour and glory for ever and ever” (1:17). This allegiance leads to a different kind of warfare. Timothy is told to “wage the good warfare, holding faith and a good conscience” (verses 18,19). In contrast those who fight in human wars hand over their conscience to their commanders.
A true believer’s relationship with human authorities is not one of rebelliously campaigning against such authority, however justified than might sometimes appear. History shows that some believers have destroyed their faith and service before God by doing this. Paul tells Timothy, “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 quiet and peaceable life, godly and dignified in every way” (2:1,2).
What a challenge this was to Paul, such was the nature of the opposition he encountered, yet he was “godly and dignified” in all the confrontations that were forced upon him. It becomes evident that the true believer cannot in conscience take part, or take sides, in the confrontations between factions in elections because he / she serves a higher authority. For those who will, by their Master’s grace, be in a position of exercising remarkable authority in God’s coming kingdom; life now is a valuable period of training.