Tensions are very high in our community at the moment. I’m writing from Sydney, in extended Covid-19 lockdown, not long after the illegal Anti-Lockdown protest of 23 July 2021, which started just near my home. The protesters were expressing a fear and anger that’s clearly present amongst many. They were wrong to express it in this particular way, but many in our community are feeling the frustration. Some are in almost impossible situations.
The catch-cry of the protest was freedom: freedom of movement, of work, of association. And while the protest itself was out of line, we all agree that freedom does matter. Religious freedom, for example, is a precious good that should be protected, for the sake of people hearing the gospel of Jesus Christ, and for the good of society. There is an argument that if Christians give in to these Covid-19 restrictions, it’s the start of a slippery slope. The argument goes: if you submit to the government in these areas, and give up the freedom to leave your home and travel—indeed, as we’ve already given up the freedom to gather in church—where does it end? Won’t the government get used to controlling us, and end up controlling, for example, what we’re allowed to preach or even say in private? That’s not an empty threat. Even in Australia, governments have shown that they want to stop Christians speaking. Laws introduced in the state of Victoria recently have done just that. So there is a real and deep-seated fear amongst many about this slippery slope.
You may not agree with the slippery slope argument. In fact, I don’t agree with it. But why? How are Christians supposed to respond to the authorities? What should our attitude be? And what does this have to do with God?
The Bible speaks to these questions. In particular, 1 Timothy 2:1–7 is very helpful for us. This is a passage about how we as believers in Christ are to live as human beings, and how we are to relate to the human beings around us, including and especially the human authorities around us. This passage doesn’t tell us exactly what to do in any situation, but it does tell us some core attitudes we are to have. And these attitudes aren’t just a matter of convenience or pragmatism. They’re a matter of the nature of God, and the nature of Christ, and the nature of Jesus’ death on the cross.
The key instruction in 1 Timothy 2:1 is prayer. But the passage doesn’t just give us a bare command to pray. Rather, it tells us about why we should pray, and about the God we are praying to. In this passage, we see God’s heart for all humanity. The idea of “all humanity” is everywhere in the passage: “all people” (vv. 1, 4); “one man”, “men”, “all” (vv. 5–6); “the nations” (vv. 5–6, 7). This passage teaches us about God and humanity, and so it teaches us to live as humans among humans and human authorities.
There are three key points that come from this passage, which will be the subject of three future posts:
- Firstly, God rules over all humans
- Secondly, God wills for all humans to be saved
- Thirdly, there is one human mediator for all humans.
To help guide your prayers during Covid-19, there are some excellent resources available at the Sydney Anglicans website: https://sydneyanglicans.net/covid19prayers