Fr Bob writes: “God wants everyone to be saved and to come to knowledge of the truth” (1Timothy 2:4)
Although our second reading this Sunday takes the form of a personal letter from St Paul to his disciple, Timothy, whom he has put in charge of the Christian community at Ephesus, Paul intended it to be shared and passed around as a guide and encouragement to all other presbyters (priests) under Timothy’s guidance.
Paul calls for the churches to pray for civil authorities. Christians were definitely in the minority, and Paul wanted no conflict with authorities which could hamper the spread of Christianity. Early Christians were especially solicitous to appear as good citizens, since they did not participate in the government’s official religious cult, since they refused to worship the emperor as a god.Paul asks for prayers for civil leaders on two scores: it will lead to the concession of an undisturbed and respected life for the Christians, and it may lead to their leader’s conversion and salvation.
What is the role of Christians regarding civil authorities today? Should we pray for them and support them? What about challenging them to rule with Christian values? Are there times and situations we should not follow dictates of the law of the land?
The reference above to God wants everyone to be saved runs counter to certain other Christians beliefs, e.g. Calvinists, who hold that some people are born, pre-destined to be saved, while others are born, pre-destined to be damned. God decides which is which. Such Christians take some of Paul`s other statements, such as in Romans 9: 18, 21, which appear to support their position. But a closer reading of those texts, with the addition of the clear, unmistakeable affirmation from our second reading today, referenced above, show that this is a distortion of Paul`s real position. The Catholic Church holds that all people have the same opportunity to hear the gospel and come to salvation.