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JOHN PEARRELL: Pray for our elected officials, even if they are not the ones we chose

By time you read this column, election day 2012 will have passed. Some of you are happy with the results of the elections, others not so happy. Wherever you stand on this, remember that the Bible says, "Obey the government, for God is the one who has put it there. There is no government anywhere that God has not placed in power" (Romans 13:1, The Living Bible).

"Submit yourselves for the Lord's sake to every authority instituted among men: whether to the king, as the supreme authority, or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right. For it is God's will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish men.

Live as free men, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as servants of God. Show proper respect to everyone: Love the brotherhood of believers, fear God, honor the king" (1 Peter 2:13 17, NIV84).

When Paul wrote the words from Romans 13:1 and Peter his words, the ruler of the Roman Empire was Lucius Domitius Ahenobarbus, better known by his chosen name, Nero. History tells us that Nero was not one of your better rulers.

He was, in fact, an insecure, murderous villain who used Roman treason laws to execute those who threatened him. He blamed Christians for the fire that devastated Rome and launched an official persecution of Christianity. He is said to have actually used Christians as human torches to light his gardens at night.

Both Paul and Peter were executed under his rule, Paul by beheading and Peter by crucifixion.

I mention this because we sometimes have a tendency to treat the Scriptures as if they were written in ivory towers of ease with no hint of having experienced the real world.

Nothing could be further from the truth. When both Paul and Peter write imploring the followers of Christ to be good citizens, they do so fully aware of the injustice of Nero.

As I pen these words, it is Monday afternoon and the election is tomorrow. I have no idea which candidate will win this nation's highest office and I share this bit of information lest some misguided soul be tempted to accuse me of comparing the winner to the emperor. I am not doing that.

What I am, however, doing is pointing out that if Peter and Paul, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, can implore Christians to be good citizens of a very corrupt Roman Empire, we who are believers today need to make sure we follow their command as we live as citizens here.

Specifically, to those whose candidate did not win, as a believer you are not excluded from supporting the candidate who did win. That is our obligation and responsibility as believers.

Yes, we may not agree with everything that our representatives do, but we need to pray for them, and where we can we need to support them. I say where we can because we must realize that not everything that is legal may be moral.

We must humbly oppose that which is unjust, doing the right thing fully aware of the consequences we may face for our stand.

Nevertheless, the best thing that we can do as believers now is to pray for those who have been elected to public office. My prayer for all our public officials is the same. I pray that they will realize that it is not political correctness that will establish them in their positions, it is righteousness.

Pray that our leaders lead wisely and justly. If the persecuted Christians of Nero's day could honor the king, we today have no excuse if we don't give proper honor to those who govern for us.

Dr. John Pearrell is pastor of Gateway Community Church in Covington. For more information, visit the Gateway website at www.gatewaycommunity.org.