It has been interesting to me over the last 12 hours or so to read Facebook status updates and tweets from my Christians friends about yesterday’s presidential election. The fact that some of these Christians are celebrating the reelection of President Obama while others are lamenting it tell me that either:
(a) Applying Christian values to voting is a difficult and murky process.
(b) Christians aren’t very aware of what “Christian values” actually are.
(c) Both A and B are partially true.
But I digress. If your candidate won yesterday, be happy, be thankful, and try not to gloat too much. If your candidate did not win yesterday (and if you are in this group, you are the real audience for this post), remember that as a Christian, you can glorify God by showing respect to the one who is in authority, even if he wasn’t your choice:
“Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, for he is God's servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God's wrath on the wrongdoer. Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God's wrath but also for the sake of conscience. For because of this you also pay taxes, for the authorities are ministers of God, attending to this very thing. Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed.”(Romans 13.1-7)
Paul’s words here are pretty hard to swallow for Christians who struggle to respect and submit to their leaders. When we think about leaders that we don’t like much, it can be difficult for us to affirm statements like, “the authorities are ministers of God” and that resisting them means that we are resisting “what God has appointed”. But that’s exactly what Paul says.
|Mosaic depicting a Christian martyr|
And to those who are inclined to think that Paul just didn’t understand about bad leaders, realize that he wrote these words to the Christians in Rome while Nero was Emperor. Nero was a vile man and a dedicated persecutor of Christians who was known for using the bodies of captured Christians as fuel for the fires which lit his garden at night. No President that our nation has ever had could hold a candle to Nero when it comes to sheer wickedness*, and it was most likely during the reign of Nero that Paul himself was executed. And yet, to a man such as this, Paul urges Christians to be in subjection.
If your candidate didn’t win yesterday, it’s okay to be disappointed. It’s okay to disagree with the policies of the current President, and it’s okay to hope for a better outcome next time. But respect your President, and be in subjection to him. Even if it is hard.
*Please do not interpret this to mean that I am suggesting that President Obama is somehow equivalent to Nero. I am not.