Tuesday

18 September 2018

1 Timothy 2:1-7

First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for everyone (v. 1)

Psalm: Psalm 140:1-7

Background

The letter writer, who may not be Paul but someone who knew his teaching very well, urges Timothy (and the church he belongs to) to pray for everyone including those with power and authority. This is a clear call to the Church to pray inclusively – and not just for those whose power and authority we recognise, or those who we agree with. On one level this is a simple encouragement to see those with power and authority as being human, as we are, and moreover as those who have the same need of prayer and encouragement as those of us with less power and authority. This understanding that all human beings have the same basic human needs, including spiritual ones, is a radical and important assertion about humanity. Shakespeare puts a speech into the mouth of the merchant Shylock in the play The Merchant of Venice when speaking of the common humanity that unites Jew and Gentile:

“Hath not a Jew hands, organs, dimensions, senses, affections, passions; fed with the same food, hurt with the same weapons, subject to the same diseases, healed by the same means, warmed and cooled by the same winter and summer as a Christian is? If you prick us, do we not bleed?”

Yet the letter writer goes on to suggest that Timothy and his church should ensure that in particular they remember to pray for those in power and authority, “for kings and all who are in high positions, so that we might lead a quiet and peaceable life” (v. 2). This comment is making a slightly different point. Is the letter writer tackling directly the issue of whether the Christian community is undertaking the daily worship of the Emperor, or is he fudging the issue? Elsewhere in Romans 13:1-7 we find a section of teaching that is sometimes called “Paul’s theology of the state”, where Paul urges the Church to be subject to the governing authorities. In other writings, Paul encourages the Church and individual Christians to resist the authorities when this means not sharing the good news of Jesus Christ. He himself suffers various punishments from the civil authorities including imprisonment. This points to the need for Christian people to resist evil and that civil disobedience may be necessary in the face of injustice.

 

To Ponder

  • What are your thoughts on whether we should always obey the law?
  • What laws and authorities should we resist, and why?

Bible notes author

Revd Helen Cameron

Helen Cameron is a Methodist presbyter and Chair of the Northampton District. Prior to this she was the Assistant Secretary of the Conference and Director of Methodist Formation at the Queen's Foundation for Ecumenical Theological Education in Birmingham.