“Then said Paul, I wist not, brethren, that he was the high priest: for it is written, Thou shalt not speak evil of the ruler of thy people.” (Acts 23:5, AV)
In our country, we currently are in a period of unrest. I have seen much political unrest in my lifetime, but I have never seen such hostility directed towards political rulers. Our previous president experienced a continuous attack by those who disagreed with his policies. Mind you, it is ok to disagree with policy, but what I saw went beyond disagreement to outright disrespect. The same thing is happening now with our current president. He has not been so maligned by the mainstream media, but people who disagree with his policies are showing verbal disrespect. There is a proper decorum that the people governed must maintain towards those who are governing. I am afraid, over the past years a harmful precedent has been established.
In this section, Paul came before the Jewish ruling council, the Sanhedrin. They were to investigate the matter of the unrest that the Jews from Asia had instigated. In the meeting, Ananias, the high priest, commanded those standing by Paul to strike him on the mouth (v2). This, of course, was an illegal action as it averted due process. Paul spoke out to this affect with some rather curt words (v3). Then those who stood by informed Paul that he was speaking to the high priest (v4). Paul here responds by citing Exodus 22:28, “You shall not revile God, nor curse a ruler of your people.”
Paul realized that he had an obligation to react to leaders in a proper manner. Even in this situation, where the high priest was out of order, there was a proper and improper way to respond. The issue is one of responding to those whom God has placed in authority over us (Romans 13:1). Our rulers, whether it may be our parents (while we are still living at home), our employers, our teachers, our governors, our congressional representatives, our senators, or our president, have their positions as ordained by God. They are thus due a level of respect. We do not have to agree with their decisions and actions, but we must show respect, which implies submission.
With this said, we must exercise caution, especially in this election year. We will hear a lot of inflammatory talk in the media as political pundits espouse their opinions and as we see advertisements by the candidates. Much of what we hear will be half-truths and innuendos designed to reelect the candidate. We will find ourselves caught in this also. Remember, you can speak the truth about a candidate’s record and his stand on points of policy, but you cannot allow your comments to move to slander or malice. I will caution you to make sure you always season your words with salt (Colossians 4:6).