Thirty years ago, I heard a relatively unknown Bible teacher declare that “opinions are strongholds.” At the time, I found this puzzling, as I failed to fathom that even a correct opinion could be a stronghold — a filter that might determine whether or not I accepted or rejected another person — or a filter that might prevent them from accepting me. Over the past several years, I have come to understand the wisdom of that teacher’s assertion!
Of course, no one likes to be proven wrong. At least, I have never met anyone who enjoys being on the wrong side of truth. I honestly believe that most people have a hunger to be right and to be able to defend their positions on various issues, whether moral, spiritual, or factual. However, when being right becomes my primary focus — as opposed to knowing the TRUTH (the Person of Jesus Christ, not a set of facts or defensible opinions), I risk alienating everyone around me. A know-it-all who is always right (or who views himself or herself as always right ) is, after all, hard to live with!
When it comes to politics, it seems our society has become increasingly toxic. People I love have begun to set up camp with others of like opinions, camps from which they launch rockets of vitriol against those with whom they disagree. Under the guise of “righteous anger,” the discord and disputes have expressed themselves in the form of increasingly bitter voices and even shrieking accusations of those on the opposite side of the fence. Indeed, the condemnation is flung as vehemently as a flurry of snowballs with stones at their core. In this maelstrom of outrage, it is challenging to truly hear one another. I have even seen posts by very dear friends (on opposing sides of the political continuum) who post self-satisfied memes implying that anyone supporting the “enemy” party could not possibly be a “real” Christian!
This acrimonious mud-slinging is surely grievous to the Holy Spirit. According to Paul, “Every person must submit to and support the authorities over him. For there can be no authority in the universe except by God’s appointment, which means that every authority that exists has been instituted by God. [Romans 13:1, TPT].” That means that somehow, in ways that are beyond my own understanding, every person in authority has been allowed by God to hold that position. Whether I like someone or not, whether I voted for that person or not, I am obligated by God to respect his or her authority (irrespective of opinions or my agreement with various policies).
Certainly, within the Church, I am free to hold different opinions and have civil discussions about those positions. However, using my opinions as a limit test for accepting or rejecting relationships can become a toxic strategy.
Paul explains the attitude I should cultivate toward persons in authority:
“Most of all, I’m writing to encourage you to pray with gratitude to God. Pray for all men with all forms of prayers and requests as you intercede with intense passion. And pray for every political leader and representative, so that we would be able to live tranquil, undisturbed lives, as we worship the awe-inspiring God with pure hearts. It is pleasing to our Savior-God to pray for them. He longs for everyone to embrace his life and return to the full knowledge of the truth.
For God is one, and there is one Mediator between God and the sons of men—the true man, Jesus, the Anointed One. He gave himself as ransom-payment for everyone. Now is the proper time for God to give the world this witness. I have been divinely called as an apostle to preach this revelation, which is the truth. God has called me to be a trustworthy teacher to the nations.
Therefore, I encourage the men to pray on every occasion with hands lifted to God in worship with clean hearts, free from frustration or strife [1 Timothy 2:1-8, The Passion Translation].
Moreover, nowhere does Scripture exhort me to pray that people in authority would come into alignment with my own opinions or preferences. Nowhere does it exempt me from the obligation to pray fervently for those in positions of authority for whom I did not vote. What I do know is that the same loving God Who has poured out His mercy on me does NOT desire that anyone perish (see 2 Peter 3:9), but that every person would come to repentance.
Is there someone in governmental (or church) authority that you hold to be a liar, a criminal, or a reprobate, someone you dislike? If we are honest, most of us could name at least one or two such people. Let’s take up the challenge to pray fervently for those people and ask God to give us HIS heart for them. If we pray with humility and passion, I doubt our rage and bitterness will remain. Yes, we WILL know the truth — not a set of facts, but the Person Whose Name is Jesus — and we will be free! (See John 8:32)
Father, cleanse me of unrighteous and bitter attitudes towards those with whom I disagree. Forgive me for failing to be consistently praying for those in authority in my church, my community, my state, and my nation. Quicken me to have YOUR heart for all those in authority, and may YOUR mercy triumph over MY judgment, in Jesus’ Name!