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12 July 2020 (Pastoral Page) PRAYING FOR THOSE IN AUTHORITY

By Dr Peter Lim

After months of speculation, GE2020 is finally here. This general election is like no other, being carried out during a time of a pandemic. While most of us may not have aspirations to political office, it is nevertheless our Christian duty to exercise our right as a citizen to vote. The importance of a capable and responsible government can never be more clearly demonstrated than during national disasters like Covid-19 and major financial crises such as the two that rocked Singapore some years ago.

The government of a country is a fundamental secular institution ordained by God. The Biblical injunction for a Christian’s response to government is very clear – “Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God.” (Romans 13:1). The apostle Paul also stated – “I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone – for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness.” (1 Timothy 2:1,2). Implicit in this statement is that a caring, capable and responsible government is needed for a peaceful life for its citizens.

At this critical juncture of our history, it is appropriate for us to offer thanksgiving and prayer for Singapore. We want to thank God for His goodness and mercy in granting peace, prosperity, racial and religious harmony to our country. We cannot assume that what has been will continue to be so in perpetuity. Much time, effort and resources are needed to ensure that this situation is sustained. We therefore have to pray for our country, people and particularly for our leaders.

For our lawmakers, we want to pray for their well-being and for discernment, vision, wisdom, and courage as they develop and implement the various measures, plans and policies that are needed to take our country out of the current economic imbroglio and beyond. We need to pray that political expediency may not always be the determining factor in the formulation of these programmes. Let us also pray that our leaders may be imbued with sensitivity as they interact with other national leaders especially those from our neighbouring countries. Such bilateral and multilateral relationships are crucial for a small city state like ours. Leadership renewal is always a work in progress and therefore merits more than mere curiosity on our part. What our founding fathers and succeeding generations of leaders have so painstakingly built up over decades can be easily destroyed by one generation of inept or corrupt leaders. Succumbing to graft and corruption is the surest way to economic upheaval and political anarchy. Let us therefore pray for personal and corporate integrity of those in authority.

Although Singapore has been considered a developed country for many years now, the rich/poor divide seems to be widening despite the measures that have been implemented. To improve the lot of the lower income group without resorting to state welfarism is indeed an arduous task which requires creativity, compassion and wisdom. But we have no choice but to persist. Biblical teaching on this subject is very clear such as “there should be no poor among you … “ (Deuteronomy 15:4); “Do not take advantage of a hired man who is poor and needy, whether he is a brother Israelite or an alien living in one of your towns” (Deuteronomy 24:14).

Another work-in-progress is the transformation into a more caring, gracious, considerate and kind society. The Singapore Kindness Movement has been in the forefront of this effort for more than a decade. Although much progress has been made in this area, cases of maid abuse, road rage, family violence, bullying (including cyberbullying), and other forms of inconsiderate and unacceptable behaviour still persist. There is much the Christian community can do to infuse its Christian qualities and values in the workplace and community for the betterment of society. Let us be the “salt of the earth” (Matthew 5:13) and “light of the world” (Matthew 5:14) so that men may praise our Father in heaven.

Finally, we want to provide prayer support for our Christian brethren in parliament. Pray that they may have the courage and resolve to stand by their Christian principles and convictions and not to buckle under political pressure. They need special wisdom and discernment to respond appropriately when faced with situations which may potentially result in a compromise of their faith. In this regard, we are reminded of the example of Joseph, Daniel and his three friends as well as Nehemiah as they were conscripted to serve under pagan secular governments. They have demonstrated how Christians can contribute significantly to the welfare and government of a country while maintaining their Christian beliefs and principles. While the circumstances and environment in which they served were quite different from today’s political arena, the principles are equally applicable. This is indeed a challenging area of Christian ministry. May King Solomon’s prayer be theirs too – “So give your servant a discerning heart to govern your people and to distinguish between right and wrong” (1 Kings 3:9).

Finally, it is our desire, prayer and hope that “we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness.” (1 Timothy 2:2)

May God continue to favour and bless our nation.

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