No matter what your political leanings, some leaders are easier to like than others. There is a sense of confidence and peace when we know someone is in office that sees things the way we do. If you follow politics, your experience may mirror my own: excitement and optimism when an election goes my way; depression, worry, and despair when someone is elected with whom I passionately disagree.
As Christians, is there a specific way in which we are to respond to our Commander in Chief? What about the presidents we didn’t vote for or don’t particularly like?
A Bittersweet Landmark
On November 4, 2008, history was made when Barack Obama was elected as the 44th President of the United States of America and the first African-American to be elected to the nation’s highest office. This was a landmark occasion for all Americans, no matter their side of the political spectrum.
However, while Christians applauded this obvious indication of racial healing in the United States, for many the election results also set off a spark of apprehension and anxiety. The new President’s stand on a variety of moral issues, most notably abortion and fetal stem cell research, was disconcerting to many evangelicals.
It is not always easy keeping our opinions to ourselves. At times, this is positive, especially when we are standing up for a cause we believe in or lovingly explaining the Word of God to an unbeliever. But sometimes, we take our opinions a bit too far, especially when it comes to the President.
Yes We Can?
American citizens have every right to disagree with President Obama’s policies on abortion, illegal immigration, taxes, etc. The freedom to disagree is a founding principle of the United States. We even have a right to lobby for the causes in which we believe. However, when our disagreements turn to slander or libel, we have taken our opinions too far. We don’t have to agree with everything a President says or does; we never will. However, we must be willing to submit to his authority. He is, after all, the leader of the United States of America—our leader.
Does it make you angry when media personalities take cruel shots at conservatives or Christians? We need to keep that in mind when it comes to a President we didn’t vote for. Some Christians seem to feel we have a license to smear the character of any government official with whom we disagree. However, when we bash the character of President Obama, we’re no different than the Bill Maher’s and MSNBC’s of the world that get our blood pressure boiling.
It is one thing to disagree with the President’s policies or positions, but do you say unfair things about him on your blog, through Twitter, or on Facebook? Do you blast him from the pulpit or make him the center of disparaging jokes? Do you take conspiracy theories and run with them, ignoring the truth even when you know you’re wrong? Even snide offhand comments have no place in the life of a Christian. In truth, the things we say about our President say more about our character than his.
Making Our Own Change
How do we take feelings of disappointment, hopelessness, and even bitterness and turn them into something positive? Let me offer five suggestions that are valuable no matter who the President might be.
1. Learn to be a gracious loser. In the days following the 2008 election, phrases like “God is still in control” flooded blogs, social media, and Christian radio. Yes, God is still in control, but when we say it with our heads down and in a tone of depression, it sounds like we are making God our crutch rather than our Sovereign Lord. Here’s how it translates to an onlooker: “I didn’t get my way, but God is still my backup plan.” If your kids play sports, you no doubt have had to teach a few lessons in sportsmanship. Sometimes you have to “tip your cap” to the other team and respectfully admit defeat. You may not have voted for President Obama, but you can still learn to be gracious in defeat.
2. Acknowledge the biblical mandate to obey our President’s authority. Romans 13:1-2 makes it clear we must submit ourselves to our governing authorities because God has established all authority. Consequently, those who rebel against authority rebel against God, and invite His judgment. Unless our leaders ask us to do something contrary to the Word of God, we must honor and obey their authority.
3. Never cease to pray for the President. No matter what you think about him, pray that God will grant him wisdom and his heart will be open to the Holy Spirit’s guidance. For many Christians, it is difficult to pray for a President with whose policies we disagree. However, this should give us more motivation to pray for him. If we believe his views are in contrast with God’s Word, we should pray diligently that he would come to understand God’s truth.
4. Vote! Have you ever asked your kids what they wanted for dinner and received no response, only to have them complain when they saw what was sitting on the dinner table? The principle is the same when we do not vote. If you fail to express your opinion at the ballot box, you have silenced your opinion once the President has been elected. We can make any number of excuses, but if we fail to show up on Election Day, we have thrown away our vote and our voice.
5. Get involved. During the primaries and general election, Christians are often focused on issues like abortion and gay marriage. However, once the election is over, we often seem not to care anymore. However, if we really want to see a difference made in the country and world, we cannot be idle. It is easy to point the finger at our national leaders when we don’t agree with them. But if you are doing nothing to make a difference in this world, do not disparage a person who is trying to make a difference just because you have different views. Feed the poor, tutor a child, raise money for Darfur victims, volunteer at an AIDS clinic, spend time at a teenage pregnancy clinic. Get out and do something.
Our Ultimate Leader
When we stick our head into the political sphere, we sometimes forget who is ultimately in control. Although he has great authority, no President holds absolute power. Despite having great influence, our Congress does not dictate all of the world’s events. When it comes down to it, God is ultimately in control of the world and He can use any man, woman, or government to accomplish His purpose.
We often talk about wanting to see our country turn back to God. If our country focuses its eyes upon our heavenly Creator, it will be because the people turn their hearts back to God. That starts with each individual believer, not laws, amendments, or elections. While we focus on our individual responsibilities, may we honor the authority of the man God has put before us, and pray that God’s truth will rain down upon him . . . even if we didn’t vote for him.
Article first appeared in Fusion magazine (Spring 2009)