With President Obama being reelected into office, it has stirred up a lot of mixed feelings – from overjoyed to dejected; from relieved to frantic. The most disheartening thing I have found, though, is the response from some of my brothers and sisters in Christ. I can understand being disappointed about a presidential election, but I don’t understand the onslaught of attacks against the President from professing followers of Christ.
Think about this verse:
“Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. ” Romans 13:1-2
It’s a scary thing to think about how you could be bringing judgment on yourself by rebelling against the authority that God has instituted. This verse raises a lot of questions from evangelicals. What if the leader is ungodly? What if the leader requires me to do something God has commanded against? What about Hitler?!
The Apostle Peter wrote something similar to what Paul said in Romans. Peter said, “submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every authority instituted among men: whether to the king, as the supreme authority, or to governors…” (1 Peter 2:13-14)
The interesting thing about Peter’s writing is that it was written while he was subject to the rule of the evil Emperor Nero. Nero used Christians as torches to light his garden, he set Rome on fire -blaming the followers of Jesus, and he eventually had Peter killed under his fierce persecution. Understanding who Nero was, Peter still said “submit yourself… to [him]”. Why? It makes absolutely no sense! Was it because Nero was the best candidate? Doubtful. Was it because Nero was the most righteous leader? Hardly! So why would Peter and Paul (and ultimately God) tell us to submit ourselves, even to ungodly leaders?
Look at Peter’s reasoning… he didn’t just say “submit yourself for the sake of submission”. He said “submit yourself FOR THE LORD’S SAKE”.
What does that mean, “for the Lord’s sake”? Every leader is placed in his position by God; not because they are the most righteous or the most qualified, but because they are being sovereignly used to carry out God’s ultimate purposes in the earth – even in their sin. And what message does it speak to a lost and dying world that as Christ’s followers, we are not shaken by who is in office? What message does is speak when we can love, and honor, and respect our authorities even though we don’t agree with them, or even if they hate us, or persecute us? The message it speaks is that we ultimately trust in the fact that their position of leadership is just one moment in history culminating into the event where the Sovereign, Incommunicable Leader will take His place on the throne of the Earth. It speaks the message that the God we serve can be trusted, even when we don’t understand the circumstances. It speaks the message that we can love those we don’t agree with. And when this message is spoken to the world through Christ’s followers, the Lord’s purpose of revealing His glory is fulfilled.
It might be very American to express your political opinions for all to hear – and you have every right, as an American, to do so. However, we shouldn’t be more American than we are Christian. We shouldn’t lose sight of our mission and objective as followers of Christ. Our mission is not to bring political reform to America, by virtue of protesting and complaining. Our mission is not to make sure that people vote for the “right candidate”. Our mission is to “go and make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19). I long for the day that the American Church’s burden for the lost supersedes its burden for the right person in office. I long for the day that American Christians would be as outspoken for Christ as they are outspoken against the opposing presidential candidate. I long for the day that Christians would pray for the leaders and people of our country more than they talk about policies, parties and the economy.
So, for the Lord’s sake, be Christians and submit yourselves to the governing authorities.