Today, Barack Obama will be sworn in as the 44th President of the United States. Whether you’re scared to death, so excited you could wet your pants, or somewhere in between, here are a few things to think about if you’re a follower of Jesus:
- It’s a historical day. I never thought I’d see a black president. This is a big step for our nation. Although racial prejudice will never be fully erased until Jesus returns and makes all things right again, this is a momentous occasion for our nation.
- We’re to honor, pray for, and submit to him. I’ve heard Christians make disparaging remarks about Obama, even cracking racist jokes about him. We wouldn’t (I hope) think about doing that to anyone else, but because he’s the president, we feel like we can say anything, even sinful things. Instead, we’re to pray for our nation’s leaders, give them the honor they are due, and submit to them. Remember, most of the New Testament was written under Nero, the Roman emperor who first persecuted Christians.
- Our faith is to be in God, not in a flawed political system. To hear many Christians talk, you’d conclude that they have more faith in our government to bring about change than they do in Jesus Christ. “If we would have elected God’s man…” so this line of rhetoric goes. God has used all kinds of leaders to accomplish his goals (he used the polytheistic Assyrian, Babylonian, Medo-Persian, Greek, and Roman empires to accomplish his purposes). There is a reason that Obama has been allowed to take this office at this time. We don’t know what that reason is yet, and we may never live to see why. What we must remember is that we are first and foremost citizens of the Kingdom of God before we are citizens of the kingdom of the United States. This will create a tension as we seek to be agents of the Kingdom of God while carrying out our responsibilities as citizens of the United States. Our loyalty first is to Christ. Legislating righteousness never truly changed anyone–they may conform their behavior, but their hearts will remain unchanged. True change comes from the gospel of Jesus. We’re to live as agents of the Kingdom of heaven no matter who is leading our nation.
- Human governments advance through blatant displays of power. The Kingdom of God advances through submissively subversant displays of sacrificial love. By all estimates, this will be (by far) the most expensive inauguration ever: $150 million. Security will never be tighter in the nation’s capital as it will be today. Anywhere between 1.5 and 3 million people are expected to be in Washington, D.C. today. To paraphrase one official, all the world will be watching today, and we can’t just have an event that’s schlock. In other words, we must display our power. Whether its through military might or ceremonial pomp, human kingdoms advance through blatant displays of power. It isn’t so for the Kingdom of God. It is advanced through sacrificial love for others that will be attractive to some, be met with indifference from others, and incite hatred and violence from still others. It is through acts of guerrilla love that the kingdom advances–low visibility, frequent impact.
So if you’re excited by today’s inauguration, remember that Obama is just a man and that our faith is to be in Jesus Christ, the only hope for true and lasting change. If you’re not so thrilled by today’s inauguration, stop bitching about it (you’re only making Christians look stupid), remember that God is in control, and start praying for our new president. For all of us who follow Jesus, let’s not be content with allowing our government to bring change–they’ll likely screw it up, and it won’t be true, lasting, inside-out change.
Only the gospel of Jesus can do that.