The presidential race was nothing short of a disaster, not because of who won, but because I’ve never seen politics like this in my lifetime. Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton both brought out the worst of anything they could dig up on the other. It was rarely, if at all, about policy or demeanor. There was little about how either candidate would make the United States better and much more about how the other was incompetent for the job. Man, was that election a rollercoaster.
There was more crossfire than an Iraqi war. One day it was leaked information or an audio of Trump saying things less than an honorable man should. Another day it was Hillary’s audio being leaked or getting more blow back from not releasing emails. The whole thing, no matter which side you stood on, was less than what most would have really wanted. The debates rarely gave us any insight into who really stood for what.
Some follow politics as closely as the news, others maybe only follow during the primaries or presidential election. Then you have others who can hardly be bothered by it, only checking in last minute to make an educated enough decision to feel good about it. I would turn to my various news sources to catch up daily on the election, even check Facebook. I would read until I felt like my teeth were rotten from consuming it. That, or my heart was saddened reading about attacks towards one individual or another.
As a pastor, my beliefs tend to side more conservatively, but that’s not always the case. As a registered independent, I’ve always somewhat prided myself on not having a political affiliation but rather learning and finding out about each individual issue before personally coming to a conclusion on something. As I know many have felt the same way I did in not caring for either candidate, I believe it left most of us in the same boat: what do we do if we don’t like or care for either? If you loved one and couldn’t stand the other or, like me, didn’t personally want either in the White House, what do we do? Maybe you’re thrilled with our new leader, maybe you’re angry, hurt, or upset with who is now our President. As Christians, what should we do with that? What role, if any, did God play in the elections? Does God command us to pray for our leaders even if we didn’t choose them? Where does all of this leave us?
Our priorities are askew. And this grieves the Holy Spirit very much. There’s pride, idolatry, compromise, and a lack of trust in God. Much like David’s foolish response to difficulty in 1 Chronicles 21 where he relies on statistics rather than trusting in God, we find ourselves in a similar situation when we put our trust in an elected human being, rather than in God. In 1 Chronicles 21:7 it says God was very displeased with David, but God was also merciful, as is his nature, and doled out a lesser punishment over David and the Israelites. The only wise choice they had was to fall into the hands of God. And it’s the only wise choice we have. The offer posed to us is “would you like bad, or would you like bad?” At the end of the day we have a choice to make. Regardless of the desired outcome, how will we respond as God’s people to the new leader of the United States of America?
The Bible has a lot to say about what Christian leaders should be like. Although there’s nothing that dictates our leader of the free world actually be Christian, I’m sure the idea that someone running our country with similar values would bring peace and comfort. That’s the whole reason for voting isn’t it? We want the person who we agree most with to be running the country on our behalf. Many of our expectations (or at the very least hopes) as Christians would be to have a Christian president. Scripture very clearly holds spiritual leaders to not only a higher standard but says they’ll also be judged to a higher standard (Acts 20:28, James 3:1). Whether you believe the Presidency is strictly governmental or not, they hold significant enough power that it does affect our beliefs in multiple ways. From our beliefs on marriage, to abortions, to state or nation mandated health regulations, and caring for refugees and victims of injustice, or the environment, our beliefs are either protected or infringed upon to some degree. Our new president either makes you feel at peace that what you hold dear and valuable will be protected, or like me, you may have doubts about how your core values will be tested.
I think many of us find ourselves in an unfamiliar setting, with little trust in what will happen in the future, how our government will operate, how our economy will be affected, or what any of that will mean for ourselves and our families going forward. I think it can become very easy for us to partner with worry and anxiety. There are certainly enough issues facing our country and place and time that can fill the oceans of our world. But let’s take a look back and see what’s happened in biblical history. To begin with, the Israelites had a god named Yahweh who was the God. God had protected and provided for them from day one. God blessed his children and allowed Abraham to have a long lasting and fruitful lineage. God brought the Israelites out of slavery and bondage into their promised land despite the giants there. God found a way around their bent to become idolatrous. God gave them judges to establish order. And time and time again, God’s heart is seeking one thing: their complete trust and intimacy. So instead of placing their trust in God, they cry out for a king to rule them; an earthly king.
1 Samuel 8:4-7, “So all the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah. They said to him, “You are old, and your sons do not follow your ways; now appoint a king to lead us, such as all the other nations have.” But when they said, “Give us a king to lead us,” this displeased Samuel; so he prayed to the Lord. And the Lord told him: “Listen to all that the people are saying to you; it is not you they have rejected, but they have rejected me as their king.”
At some point the Israelites lost sight of the God of the Universe, their Father, as having a greater wisdom or strength than any other leader. Where did this come from? Partly earthly nature which tends to default to forgetting the greatness of God. The other? According to this scripture it was the Israelites who noticed “all the other nations” having kings and thus thought that is what would be best for them as well. As you could go on to read, that decision to replace God with an earthly king didn’t work out so well for them. It lead to a literal history of kingship that included more bad men than good. It led to wars, to enslavement, and immeasurable deaths. The Israelites mistake? They gave a humanly leader more place, power and trust than the one and only living God.
Much later in time, we read in Romans 13:1-3 that, “…every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God. Therefore, whoever resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to evil. Do you want to be unafraid of the authority? Do what is good, and you will have praise from the same.”
With full realization this verse is enough to start some major theological debates, I’ll preface by saying you’re more than rightly able to disagree. It’s often tough to wrap my own head around these verses. I personally take this scripture to mean that there truly isn’t government rule without God being involved, or as the scripture forms it: “the authorities that exist are appointed by God.” Maybe you’ve just read this and your first response is, “but what if they’re against God?” Great question, let’s look at an interesting comparison in regards to this point. Take the story of Daniel and Nebuchadnezzar in the book of Daniel. Nebuchadnezzar was a king that was not only pagan, but hated the idea of another god being greater than himself or his own gods. So much so that God’s chosen people were taken from their land and brought into captivity and taught to renounce all of their ways; culture, life, beliefs, …everything. What happens in our story? God gives Daniel the ability to interpret King Nebuchadnezzar’s dreams. Did it benefit God to do that? Certainly not. Why would God give Daniel a spiritual gift to bless a king that not only didn’t know him, but hated him? You can certainly see God moving despite a king that was clearly not for him and vehemently against him. Why did God bless Nebuchadnezzar with answer to his dreams? What was God moving towards? I believe that God was intentionally pursuing Nebuchadnezzar much like he pursues all of us. His heart is to speak to us even more than we want him to speak to us. God blessed Nebuchadnezzar because he wanted to show him a better way to rule, which was God being at the center of his life. The best part is that even with Nebuchadnezzar’s hard heart against him, he eventually comes to know God and follow him fully.
2 Chronicles 7:14, “If My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.”
Maybe, like the Israelites, we’ve placed too much faith in a President than in our God of the Universe. Maybe, like the Israelites, we think the rise and fall of our nation rests in the hands of an earthly leader. Maybe we’ve grown cynical, angry, or hopeless. In all we do, our focus and trust can only be fully placed in him, otherwise it’s a rocky foundation, a house built on sand (Matthew 7:24-27). Praise God we can trust him in the midst of all things, including our new president and politics. John 14:1, “Don’t let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, and trust also in me.” We can be like the Israelites and think that who’s in office matters more than God, or we can choose to see God as bigger than all of it. The same God that asks us to trust him in all things is the same God that includes politics when he says “all” things. In Luke 6:27-30, “But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you. Bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.” Similarly, in Matthew 5:44 Jesus says, “But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” I’m sure that certainly includes a leader that could persecute your beliefs or core values in how they run our country. Lastly, and most strongly, we’re not simply asked by God to lift leaders up in prayer, we’re expected to:
1 Timothy 2:1-2, “I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; For kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty.”
What Paul instructs us to do in 1 Timothy takes humility. It requires we lay down our wants, our desires, our expectations and helps us set aside our own pride about what we think is right/wrong or “how things should be” and grows compassion for our leadership regardless of how we feel about them. God can use them, can change their hearts, like he likely did when Nebuchadnezzar said in Daniel 4:37, “Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and extol and honor the King of heaven, for all his works are right and his ways are just; and those who walk in pride he is able to humble.” This should give any Christian hope no matter what earthly leader is “in charge.”
Don’t forget this particular passage to pray, thank and intercede for those in leadership was written from the Apostle Paul to Timothy at a time when the evil emperor Nero was the governmental leader of the vast Roman Empire. So whether you find yourself struggling with our new leader, or frustrated it wasn’t who you wanted, trust God with it. If you’re anxious or worried about what comes next for our nation, pray to the God who can change it. Ask God to give you a trust in him that you don’t have for our President or any issue America is battling. Remember, it was only at the point that the Israelites lost sight of who God was that things began to drastically shift for the worse. Pray for our leader regardless of agreement or disagreement. It’s in the humility it takes to pray for them that they may yet be changed, and through that quite possibly our nation. My prayer is that even if we completely love or completely disagree with who our new US President is, that we can learn from the mistakes of God’s people in the past, that we can place our trust in the only source by which it will not be returned void, and that we can know God is constant. He will be with us despite a rise or fall of our nation. He himself is the beginning and the end. May we place God in his rightful position of being our one and only true king. Motivational speaker Nick Vujicic said it best, “Regardless of who is President, Jesus is still King.”