“First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanskgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way.” (I Timothy 2:2)
For about the past 7 days, I’ve been hung up on this. “A peaceful and quiet life.” A peaceful and quiet life? But I’m a fighter, man! A doer! I’m here to make it happen, right? My vision of a Christian man and a Christian pastor has been one who builds. Grows. Does. Protects. Provides. And fights for what is right. So understandably, this Scripture gives me a bit of pause. Does it mean that the goal of a pastor (Paul wrote this to Timothy, a young pastor in the 1st Century A.D.) is to absolutely and positively flee from everything that’s difficult and hard? Does it advocate my retreating from the “war-zones” of life and culture? I’m not sure, based on other parts of the New Testament, that it means that – but I do think it means this: As I pray for “all people” (all would include those with whom we disagree and even those that hate us), I look forward to a place of peace – with God and others. I look forward to a quietness of soul and spirit – a quietness that allows me to hear a Voice that brings me the peace for which we search. How does that play out? I’m not sure, but based on what I’ve seen in the past week – I’m pretty sure how it shouldn’t play out. At least for me.
I’m not even going to name the nationwide controversy that exploded last week because I don’t want to be a part of advertising it anymore. I don’t want to criticize either side – that’s not the point of this post. I won’t address that because that’s not where my heart is this morning. What I want to say is this: I’m wondering what God is asking of me in all this. Is he asking me to fight? Is he asking me to stand up for my rights? Is he asking me to make war on those with whom I disagree? Is he asking me to compromise His word and my convictions to get along with the mainstream? Or is His focus for me something different – a category of reflection that’s not even been addressed by the numerous talking heads and theological and cultural know-it-all’s that seem to be in no short supply?
A “peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way.” What does that mean? Not just “to me,” but what does it “mean?” I’m still working it out – but I know that my war is not against flesh and blood. It’s not against people who persecute myself or my brothers and sisters in Christ. They are NOT our enemies. They are people that God loves – that I should love. When I see them trashing what is holy – do I look down on them? Do they disgust me? Or do look down on, and am I disgusted by, those dark influences which may motivate them? There is such a danger here. I believe our true enemy would have us distracted. Our war is not, first and foremost, a war for our culture. It’s not a war for a value system we believe once existed in this country. It’s a war for the souls of men and women who don’t, for whatever reason, know of the infinite goodness, power and love of a God who desires to call them by name, heal their hurts, and secure their future. But if they disgust me, if I look upon them with contempt, and I believe them to be my enemies – how will I ever manifest the presence of Jesus in their lives?
To be honest, I don’t find myself to be as concerned with these hot-button inflammatory issues of culture as I once was. Why? Because I think they can distract me. And you. I think it’s a lot easier to to call down the filth in culture than it is to call down the filth that’s in my own soul. Maybe if I, and people like me, were as concerned with the cleanliness inside of us as individuals as we are with the cleanliness of everything and everybody who is exterior to us – then maybe that exterior about which we seem to be so concerned wouldn’t be quite as dirty.
I’m not sure what it means to live a “peaceful and quiet life” in the spirit Paul describes, but I’d sure like to learn. God, may I always be defined by your presence in me. May I trust in the power of your sovereign Spirit – and may I never believe that my being in control is a prerequisite for the quietness and peace you desire for me.