Yesterday was 9/11, which makes it a time of distinct American sentimentality, remembrance, and contemplation. It also makes it a great day to drop Vladimir Putin’s editorial piece in the NY Times. As I looked at my Facebook wall, I was astounded by how many people were posting this article, quoting from it, and promoting the fact that Putin had great things to say to the American public about the conflict in Syria. I don’t usually write about politics, and I almost never agree with our current president, but I cannot agree with many of my Christian friends who have thrown their whole weight of support behind this article.
Before we go any further, let’s just make sure we are all talking about the same man. This is the Vladimir Putin of
this NY Times article: Putin Critic Gets 5 Year Jail Term
and this one: Russia Passes Bill Targeting Some Discussions of Homosexuality
and this one: Putin Signs Bill that Bars U.S. Adoptions
oh, and this one, too: At Chechnya Polling Station, Votes for Putin Exceed Rolls
Okay, just wanted to make sure. So, the logic is, we don’t trust our own president, for whatever reason, but we will trust the president of Russia? If anyone thinks Putin’s article is a hip, modern, fresh way of doing international diplomacy, you just haven’t read 2 Kings 18 recently. I swear Putin must have done his devotions on that passage this week, because his appeal to the American people is straight out of ol’ King Sennacherib’s playbook. If you don’t believe me, read it for yourself. I’ll give you a hint at what most people call this kind of move: propaganda. And some of us bit onto it hook, line, and sinker.
Putin doesn’t care whether we agree with him. Some of the things may very well be true. What he really wants is to undermine the authority structure of the American government. Is that something we as Christians want to begin to champion? Is that what Jesus and Paul sought to do? If my memory serves me correctly, Jesus and Paul were both condemned on false charges of insurrection. I don’t claim to be an expert on this issue, and that is why this is not an opinion piece on what should be done in Syria. Here is what I do know:
“Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme, or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good. For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people. Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God. Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor.”
1 Peter 2:13-17
And I also know this:
Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer. Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God’s wrath but also for the sake of conscience. For because of this you also pay taxes, for the authorities are ministers of God, attending to this very thing. Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed.
And finally this:
First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.
Whether we like it or not, we are American Christians. This is not a title of exceptionalism or distinction, but rather a directive from God about to whom we are to render our respect. We may not agree with President Obama, but it is our duty to respect the authority of his office. How often do you pray for Barack Obama to find salvation in Jesus Christ? What about the rest of our nations leaders. Paul tells Timothy that our prayers should coincide with God’s desire to see all men saved. We ought to pray also that our nation’s leaders would come to knowledge of the truth–whether about eternal life or about the conflict in Syria. May we all take a step away from the silver-tongued article of Vladimir Putin, President of Russia, and spend some time this morning praying for our own nation’s leaders.
P.S.–I bet The NY Times are just chuckling at the whole irony of this situation. (photo credit)