In the United States, many state governments are finding it important to pass ethics reform legislation that will clarify the relationship between state businesses and the money used to fund political campaigns. In Illinois, the Ethics Reform Act went into effect Jan. 1, promising a new standard for contractors and government officials. Nonetheless, a record number of federal corruption charges are being prosecuted against those who have built their careers on influence peddling.
A spiritual perspective can help keep us active in prayer as the reform measures take effect. The New Testament urges prayer for people in authority (see I Tim. 2:1, 2). But how do we pray to uphold our elected officials when they are under criminal investigation?
The psalms of King David in the Bible are full of prayers for righteousness. As king, David must have known his own need to defend his character and uphold justice in his kingdom. The benefits of obeying wise counsel were clear: "Commit thy way unto the Lord; trust also in him; and he shall bring it to pass. And he shall bring forth thy righteousness as the light, and thy judgment as the noonday" (Ps. 37:5, 6).
That word righteousness is intriguing. The Amplified Bible translates it as "uprightness and right standing with God." It's a test of one's own righteousness to be able to defend the right standing with God that belongs to others, even when they've broken the law. To think of virtue and wisdom as something one makes for oneself, in contrast to those who are less virtuous and unwise, mistakenly identifies the source of righteousness as human instead of divine. It is because the God of truth is the Creator of all that we have the hope of a more broadly expressed integrity.
What is so malicious about self-righteousness is that it refuses to honor the relationship between God and others. Many elected officials unselfishly and willingly work extraordinary hours with little recognition. And while this doesn't excuse lapses in judgment or lawbreaking, the weaknesses are not the whole story.
When a public official's moral laxity comes to the surface, and especially when it involves a misuse of power, it's a time to vigorously uphold the power of the God of truth to clarify and correct. Praying for humanity's awakening advances the hope of supporting individual redemption, of someone recommitting to his or her talents, and of the individual being a blessing instead of a bane to society.
The Bible offers confidence in matters of public corruption. Instead of indulging the cynicism that agrees to the inevitability of self-interest, the book of Psalms asserts that evildoing will be cut off (see 37:1, 2, 9). Whatever fails to have foundation in truth has no strength to continue. In fact, God, Truth itself, does not tolerate the errors of deceit, greed, and selfishness. Truth actively destroys whatever is unlike good.
When the aberrant behavior has such broad public implications, it's important to consider the relationship of forgiveness and the healing of sin. The conventional view of forgiveness is that it accommodates wrongdoing. But there's nothing in the theology of Christian Science to support that view. Rather, there's this basic tenet: "We acknowledge God's forgiveness of sin in the destruction of sin and the spiritual understanding that casts out evil as unreal. But the belief in sin is punished so long as the belief lasts" ("Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," p. 497). The same power that enables us to respond in prayer to the sins of others is the power of God, transforming and redeeming â€“ the power that sets the new course for the transgressor and repairs the damage his or her sins may have caused others.
Compassion is warranted in considering the anguish of the official's family dealing with public disgrace.
Prayer to bless public officials includes supporting them as they move through and past their weaknesses, and on to showing forth their God-given goodness. It's what we would want if we were in their shoes.
Adapted from the Christian Science Sentinel.