Last night, we had a great time with our friends, the Cribbs. We hung out, ate, and watched the election results as they started coming in. Now that the dust has settled, and no matter who you voted for, we all need to get used to three words.
President Barack Obama.
For some of us, those words bring hope because it’s pretty certain that the government will take a somewhat different direction from the Bush administration. For others of us, those words strike fear because it means higher taxes and even bigger governement and a move (in some aspects) toward socialism.
In the days leading up to Obama’s inauguration on January 20, 2009 there will be both anticipation and trepidation as we speculate on what will happen under an Obama administration. Looking back on the days and months leading up to election day, some really cool and some really shameful things happened among those in the church. I witnessed some really cool discussions between Christians about why they chose to vote the way they did. It was very civil as we hashed out our reasons, talked about why we disagreed on certian issues, and ended the coversations agreeing to disagree–Christians who voted for Obama, Christians who voted for McCain, and Christians like myself who voted for a third party candidate.
I also witnessed some really shameful things. A Christian lady I know who was an Obama supporter told me she couldn’t say anything at her work because everyone else was voting for McCain, and if she spoke up, a firestorm of criticism might rain down on her. I saw Facebook statuses that said stuff like, “Any Christian who votes for Obama needs to examine their heart.” I saw the same old crap that says Jesus would vote Republican, and that in order to have a “Christian nation” we needed to vote for a Republican. I saw people’s faces flinch in horror when I told them I wasn’t voting for McCain, because “every vote needs to count; this election to important to waste your vote on a third party candidate”. I dealt with that flawed line of reasoning yesterday. You would think the antichrist has come to power (oh… I ran into that utterly ridiculous garbage, too).
So whether you’re celebrating yesterday’s results or weeping over them, we all need to answer one simple question: as Christ’s followers, how should we react to the new president?
Two passages of the Bible sum up what our reaction should be:
First of all, then, I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men, for kings and all who are in authority, in order that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity. This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth. 1 Timothy 2:1-4
Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether to a king as the one in authority, or to governorsas sent by him for the punishment of evil-doers and the priase of those who do right. for such is the will of God that by doing right you may silence the ignorance of foolish men. Act as free men, and do not use your freedom as a covering for evil, but use it as bondslaves of God. Honor all men; love the brotherhood, fear God, honor the king. 1 Peter 2:13-17
If you look back at when 1 Timothy and 1 Peter were written, you’d see that Nero was the emperor of Rome. Nero started the first major wave of persecution of the church (and it paled in comparison to what came several decades later). Both Paul and Peter wrote under pagan governments. They said that Christ followers should pray, submit, and honor those leaders. They aren’t to plot against them; they aren’t to constantly complain and disparage them. They’re to pray for them, submit to them, and honor them.
So here’s how we’re to react to President Obama:
- We’re to pray for him. We’re to pray that God would grant him wisdom to govern. We’re to pray for God’s will to be done and for His purpose to be accomplished (and sometimes that means things could get worse before they get better–God’s plan and purpose doesn’t equate comfort and security; I’m not saying things will get worse, but they could). We should also pray for his safety. Many have declared that if our nation can elect a non-white president, then many racial wounds have been healed. In some cases, that is true. But there are those on the fringes of society, and even in many parts of mainstream society, that are enraged at Obama’s election, simply because he isn’t a 100% full blooded white guy. Plans have already been thwarted for his assassination. I fear that Obama will not live through his presidency. I hope that he does, and lives for a long time afterward. We must pray for his safety.
- We’re to honor him. This is where many of us will have trouble, myself included. We tend to complain about our leaders, especially those we didn’t personally vote for. We tend to fall back into the “well, if we would have elected…” type of reasoning. We must remember that this man has the toughest job in the world. Should Obama serve four or eight years, he will age before our eyes. The stresses of the presidency make our problems seem trite. Instead of whining and bitching about him, we must honor him by praying for him and being agreeable in our disagreement. We can discuss differences we have with our government without getting nasty about it.
- We’re to submit to him. We do this by simply living the Jesus life–by loving God, loving people, and serving the world. We live a life of quiet dignity, of godliness, and of holiness. We serve “the least of these” in the name, not of government, but of Jesus. We keep the laws of our land as best we can. No matter what happens with our economy, or the war in Iraq, or anything else, we continue to live this way–as citizens and agents of the kingdom of God, which at times will exist in harmony with our being citizens of the United States, and and times will exist in tension with our being citizens of the United States. Should a time ever come when preaching the gospel is outlawed, or telling others about Jesus is banned, or anything else happens that would make us choose between obeying God or obeying our human government, then we must choose to obey God (even if it means fines or jail time, or worse). But no matter what the case, we’re to live the Jesus life.
So take some time today to pray for our current President, that his last months in office wouldn’t be “lame duck,” but would be as productive as possible. And let’s pray for our president-elect, as he sets about the business of choosing his cabinet and planning out the opening days of his administration. And let’s pray for ourselves, that we will develop a heart for him–to pray for him, to honor him, and to submit to him. Let’s pray that we’ll continue to live as citizens of the kingdom of God as we sojourn temporarily as citizens of the United States.