God cares for us with both hands – Pastor Ken Pfitzner
1 Timothy 2:1-6
I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone — 2 for kings and all those in authority, so that we can live in peace and quietness, in godliness and dignity. 3This is good and it pleases God our Saviour, 4who wants everyone to be saved and to come to know the truth. 5For there is only one God and one Mediator who can reconcile God and people. He is the man Christ Jesus, 6who gave himself a ransom for all. That was the proof at the right time that God wants everyone to be saved.
Prayer: ‘Lord, guide all who rule over us for our wellbeing, and help us to trust your gracious rule over us as your people through Christ. Bless us as we hear your Word now, and make us a blessing to those around us. In Jesus’ name. Amen.’
Ever since we heard the news, “Queen Elizabeth II has died,” there’s been a widespread outpouring of grief, together with much ceremony leading up to her funeral tomorrow. So many news items and documentaries have focussed on her life and reign of 70 years, as the oldest and longest reigning British monarch in history – admiring her dedication to her calling as Queen, her continuous sense of duty, her dignity and her faith.
It so happens that today’s Second Reading here refers to those who rule over us. Here Paul urges us to pray for those in authority so there can be proper order in society . . . in which there’s peace so that the work of the Gospel can continue without hindrance. In these ways, God is actually exercising His gracious rule in the world and in our lives!
Flowing out of this Reading today, we can see two distinctive ways through which God does this. Many years ago, Martin Luther described these as “the kingdom at God’s right hand and the kingdom at His left.” This is often referred to as “the doctrine of the two kingdoms” – and focuses on God’s gracious care for us and for all people, as we live in this world. So, as we’re assured of this, we can say: ‘GOD CARES FOR US WITH BOTH HANDS!’
In brief, the so-called “kingdom on His left hand” has to do with His general care for the good ordering of society and the safety of all people. This is the area of government and family, and proper law and order. The “kingdom on His right” has to do with His rule of love in the lives of His people as they live as Christians in the world. This is the realm where His Word is believed, and people serve God and others in response to His love for them in Jesus Christ.
First, the apostle Paul says here:
“I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone — 2 for kings and all those in authority, so that we can live in peace and quietness, in godliness and dignity. 3This is good and it pleases God our Saviour.”
In writing this, he recognises that rulers and governments have an essential role for good order in society, and the responsibility to ensure we live in safety and peace.
As people reflect on the life of Queen Elizabeth – and now, King Charles III – we can thank God for the stability the monarchy has brought. We’re privileged to live in a democracy, and we can thank God that here in Australia we have relatively good government. Not every country has that, of course. Many nations live under tyrannical and harsh rule, and there’re nations in conflict – like Ukraine and Russia.
When Paul wrote this, Christians in the Roman Empire were suffering persecution. But he didn’t incite them to revolution. Instead, he urged them to pray for all those in authority. He recognised that even though the rulers may be evil, the institution of government is established by God.
So instead of often criticising our governments, Prime Ministers and Premiers, members of parliament and local government, our leaders and those in authority, we ought to pray for them. Pray for God to give them wisdom and integrity. Pray for God’s Spirit to guide them in the decisions they make – that they stand up for what is right and good, and protect us from corrupting influences. Pray that they might have the courage to resist self-seeking politics. Pray that they sense God’s will, and ask God to help them in their huge responsibilities.
The other crucial area for a stable society is the family unit. God provides for our welfare by giving us families to live in. Children are to be brought up within the safety and love of a home. And within families we learn to be responsible and caring.
Both family and government belong to the natural orders of society, instituted and established by God. So through this so-called “kingdom on the left,” God is at work – providing for our earthly & material welfare.
But, despite this, our world is far from perfect. We know we live in a sinful world, torn apart by selfishness, and conflict and cruelty. We see all sorts of evil and corrupt forces at work. We see the disintegration of families and the breakdown of relationships. And we see the selfish nature also at work within ourselves! . . . affecting every area of life.
Through His kingdom on His left hand, God rules to curb the lawlessness that breaks out. But laws and restrictions don’t change people inside. You can demand different behaviour, and force people to obey. But that doesn’t produce a willingness to do so, or a desire to care for others.
This is where we see God’s other way of showing His love and care for our world. God has reached into our world through Jesus, to express His ultimate care for the whole human race – for every individual person, and for you and me! Our Reading expresses it this way:
“God wants everyone to be saved and to come to know the truth. For there is one God, and there is one who brings God and mankind together. He is the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself a ransom for all.”
This is at the heart of that other kingdom of God, the so-called “kingdom on His right hand.”
God knows we all need to be rescued from our sinful selfishness and the death it brings. God’s way of dealing with this was to come into our world in the person of Jesus to deal with the forces of sin, death, and evil … and bring freedom and new life for all people! Through the life of Jesus Christ, and His death on the cross and resurrection at Easter, God has inaugurated a new kingdom! It’s a spiritual kingdom, in which people are reconciled to God – and where God’s forgiveness wipes out all past wrongs. It would be helpful for us in Australia to remember that all true reconciliation begins at the cross of Jesus Christ!
It’s also an eternal kingdom, that will continue after this old earthly order passes away. But already now, in this kingdom on the right, God rules in people’s hearts and lives with His love. In this kingdom, people live by faith in God. They don’t live under the demands of law, but under the Gospel of God’s love.
This is the Gospel of God’s grace for you … and for me! You are the people of His kingdom of grace – new people who live under His forgiveness, because of Christ Jesus! Here we have life. Here His Spirit transforms us to be servants of the Servant-Lord – who want to serve Him in response to all His love for us. That’s the privilege and responsibility we have as Christians. The presence of this spiritual kingdom is seen wherever the people of Christ’s Church are at work in the world and live with faith in Christ.
As Christians, we live in both kingdoms – the ‘kingdom on the left’ and ‘the kingdom on the right.’ God is at work in this world, even among this world’s horrors and distress. He’s still the Lord of the nations and of history, and the Lord of our lives!
So as we thank Him for His “kingdom on the left,” we continue to pray for all our governing authorities. And as we thank Him for His “kingdom on the right,” we live with faith in Christ and in the freedom that He brings.
So take heart, because ‘GOD CARES FOR US WITH BOTH HANDS!’