23:1 And looking intently at the council, Paul said, “Brothers, I have lived my life before God in all good conscience up to this day.” 2 And the high priest Ananias commanded those who stood by him to strike him on the mouth. 3 Then Paul said to him, “God is going to strike you, you whitewashed wall! Are you sitting to judge me according to the law, and yet contrary to the law you order me to be struck?” 4 Those who stood by said, “Would you revile God's high priest?” 5 And Paul said, “I did not know, brothers, that he was the high priest, for it is written, ‘You shall not speak evil of a ruler of your people.’”
(Acts 23:1-5 (ESV)
“You shall not speak evil of ruler over your people.”
This is somewhat of a comical scene. Paul obviously knew who the high priest was. But his and that he did not know it was the high priest was a bit of an insult to the man who acted beneath his dignity. Before Paul had even anything to say, Ananias ordered Paul to be struck, it was unbecoming of a high priest, of a man of his stature. The man himself has spoken badly of his office, of himself.
It’s a hard one not to speak evil of rulers. They are often unbecoming of their office. They are human, like you. Often they anger a person, or gaff with stupidity. And in the United States, making fun of our rulers is a national pastime. Once they hold public office we think the 8th commandment no longer applies to them. Within our synod, the problem is worse regarding those we elect to be DPs and so on.
Now, not speaking evil isn’t that we have to agree with everything a person does. But rather than revile them we should pray for them. And if we are praying for them, we probably ought not be reviling them, it would make our prayers just a little disingenuous.
Of course, in a very real sense, Ananias was not the high priest. We have one of those, and it is Jesus Christ who intercedes for us before the Father. He has made the final sacrifice, he is our ruler. And he does rule, even through men like Ananias. But Christ fulfils the role perfectly, and rather than condemning men, he receives blows. Rather than revile, he cries out, Forgive them Father for they know not what they do. And this he says of us too.