- The Washington Times - Monday, September 24, 2001

Excerpts from a sermon given yesterday by the Rev. Mark Shaltanis at St. Paul's Lutheran Church in Falls Church, Va..
"Our text is the second assigned reading for today: 1 Timothy 2:1-7. In these verses, St. Paul, who is writing to the young pastor Timothy, packs in an incredible amount of important teaching. We see here, first of all, God's desire for all people that they be saved and come to a knowledge of the truth. Second, we see God's means of carrying out His desires; sending the one mediator, Christ Jesus, as a ransom for all.
And thirdly, we see here God's instruction for how we are to live as His people, offering prayer for all and seeking a quiet and peaceable life. Two weeks ago, the quiet and peaceable life didn't sound all that great to many Americans. It sounded, instead, quite boring. Now, however, 12 days following the terrorist attacks on America, I'm guessing it sounds a whole lot better.
Or does it? Quiet and peaceable after our nation has been terrorized? Are we just supposed to sit back quietly and let criminals take shots at our people? Are we simply to pray for peace, and leave it at that? No, at least not those among us who are charged to carry out law and order. Our text is not calling us to lay down our arms forever. When the need calls, we must pick them up and prosecute the guilty among us. And yet, the goal is always a quiet and peaceable life. Not conquest, not glory, but peace.
We must remember that the Christian message is not primarily about justice. Yes, justice is important. But true justice is hard for us to determine. God is the only one who can bring about true justice. And He will, in His time. The Christian message, rather, is primarily about faith. Faith enables us to lead a quiet and peaceable life, regardless of our circumstances, for faith believes that God will provide for what we truly need. God can even provide when the government is evil and unjust. God will bring about His own justice, using His own means.
In these times, when the world has been riled through "wars and rumors of wars," the world needs Christians to focus on the goal of a quiet and peaceable life. Bear arms if we must, in order to carry out justice. But be careful in doing so. We must never be influenced by our natural inclination to revenge. Nor must we give in to the temptation of opportunism. The world is watching: What is America going to do? Many think we will use a military operation as an opportunity for advancing American interests. As Christians, we must urge our country to remember God's interests.
Our duty as Christians is to urge peace, participate in justice as we are called, and above all, to pray. Today's text begins by saying, "First of all, I urge you to pray." That means we are to begin with prayer. Prayer puts us in a godly frame of mind. We don't just pray to influence God, although that is a reason as well. God promises to hear and act on our prayer. We also pray because we are commanded to. God knows that attention to Him, coupled with a mind informed by His Word, will lead to thoughts and actions that are holy and right.
Much of the world is convinced we don't pray in this country. Muslim extremism, for instance, sees American secularism as its enemy, not Christianity. Do we pray? Do we include God in our schedules? Do we include God in our decisions? I am very pleased that our president has established himself as a man of prayer. May all of our leaders who will guide us in the uncertain days ahead begin their tasks with prayer.
As for the rest of us, we are to pray for our leaders. This command in our text was not just randomly thrown in. The leaders of nations need our prayers like none other. They have a responsibility to be an instrument of God in their position. Romans 13:4 says they are God's servants. They must therefore agonize over the incredibly difficult questions of justice before them. Likewise, they must face the tremendous temptations that come before them as a result of their powerful positions.
Pray, my friends. Pray earnestly and honestly. Let us pray that those controlled by their anger and hate will go through a conversion like St. Paul. Let us not give up on those in this world that right now are our enemies, for there is no prospect for greater positive, lasting change in the world than their conversion to a way of peace and truth.
Next week: A sermon by the Rev. Marcus E. Turner at Beulah Baptist Church in the District
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