As we immerse ourselves in the hurly burly of local body elections we have these readings from Jeremiah and 1 Timothy to inform us.
William Loader, an Australian New Testament scholar offers these thoughts on Timothy. “Here a community has time and space to reflect on the order of society and to value prayer for those in authority. At one level this is, however, an expansion of gospel values. All people matter. All need to be held up as valuable in prayer before God (2:1). The focus on political rulers (2:2) has never ceased to be relevant, although at times it has been watered down into a kind of chaplaincy which never questions what they do, but unwittingly sanctions it. Praying for politicians has to mean more than that. It has to mean holding them up before God in the light of the gospel and its challenges about justice and change. It also has to be about more than our living a quiet and peaceable life (2:2). It must include that element of responsibility that creates and sustains free space for people to engage with each other and with God. That is not, however, a matter of individuals pursuing a personal piety which consists of not much more than a certain morality and a focus on a world beyond this one, although such people are very convenient for politicians who prefer not to be questioned. Our prayer for politicians and people in authority has to be with the disturbance of God where power is abused and love not lived out for all.”
In the passage from Jeremiah we hear the gut wrenching grief because power is abused and love not lived out, when leaders fail in their responsibilities to all those who live under their care. In his grief he reveals God’s gut wrenching pain at that failure. When we focus on our own good we create societies of pain where God’s will is not done. Loader continues, “… the will of God the saviour and restorer is nothing less than a holistic mission of setting right what people have set wrong, of bringing back into relationship what has been alienated. It does not need to be restricted to a narrow view which sees salvation as personal freedom from sin and damnation and the promise of heaven, and sees knowledge of the truth as knowing about this and believing it.
(The writer to Timothy goes on to offer) a summary of what Christians might want to preach in a pagan world. They shared with Jews of the time the fundamental conviction that God is one, that there is one God. This implies … a sense of belonging and that every human being and, indeed all of creation, is of value. The Christian assertion that there is one mediator counters the views that there may be a muddle of competing and threatening authorities which one must somehow buy off if salvation is to be possible. Its equivalent today is where people go around serving a dozen different tyrants in themselves, many of them fickle and irrational, but well ensconced in their consciousness. The sheer plethora of competing demands helps people engage in the business of stress and of placating the "unplacatable".
Our passage says: no such validity should be given to our tyrants, nor to any external ones. Only one needs to be noted to see the truth about God's saving love. That is Jesus. He (or as much of his story as we know) is so transparently an image of God's being, that in him we know that God is there for us and not against us, and that we can dismiss the powers within us and outside us which play god or claim mediator status. This is also true in the church. We are not dependent on a minister or priest or on any of their religious performances or rites. They have no authority of brokerage, as if they can decide for God or manipulate God for or against us. At most they can witness to the story and interpret it. They can celebrate the generosity of the one broken for us. But they cannot usurp God's place, even though the "will to power" is such that they will often pretend they can.”