This week, Indiana voted and it appears as though Donald Trump will be the next presidential candidate for the Republican Party. Hillary and Bernie are still in the race, but the overwhelming sentiment I am hearing on the news, in my circles and on the streets is that all of the candidates are terrible. People are arguing how to vote for the “lesser of two evils”, or hoping that the Independent party will miraculously gain a standing. As with every election season, the devout Christians are bemoaning the changing of culture and wondering if the next president will be the one to lead us to our demise and begin the End Times…”America will fall”, “We must return to God”, “We are no longer a Christian nation” echo through churches and on the street corners.
It is indeed a monumental occasion that we will choose our political leader for the next four years during the upcoming months. And we as Christians need to be intentional about our hearts, thoughts and actions as we each play our unique role in this event. In order to do so, there are a few things that we must keep in mind moving forward:
1. God is still sovereign and in control. God created the entire universe and wrote redemption’s story which began at creation and will be fulfilled at the end of time. Nothing is outside of His command, nothing surprises Him and nothing will thwart His righteous plan. This plan perfectly included all of the great empires and nations which have reigned and all of the small, seemingly insignificant ones as well. The British, Roman, Ottoman Empires and Han Dynasty were all established and fell by God’s hand, as well as the nomadic peoples of North Africa and East Asia – of whom no one has ever heard.
– Rom 13.1b
– Dan 2.21
Of all the peoples and nations which have ever existed (and still do exist), the only one to whom God has promised land and national prosperity through obedience is Israel. The United States is not God’s chosen people by nationality and He has not promised us this land. We cannot guarantee our future as a nation by encouraging people to “return to God”. That being said, we can rest confidently and assured that God is sovereign over the United States and the next leader, and He has promised that He will work all things together for the spiritual and eternal good of those who love Him (Rom 8.28).
2. We must submit to and honor our leaders, even if we disagree with them. This one is difficult to apply and stomach in a land where we have granted ourselves the freedom of speech and have checks and balances to keep our leaders accountable. Scripture is crystal clear, however:
“Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God. Therefore whoever resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God; and they who have opposed will receive condemnation upon themselves…Render to all what is due them: tax to whom tax is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honor to whom honor.”
– Rom 13.1-2, 7
God places every authority in power. He also removes every authority which falls or fulfills a term. He is sovereign. Therefore, we must respect and honor (and pay taxes) to those who rule over us. Keep in mind that this instruction was written by Paul to the church at Rome – those believers who were being taxed beyond what they could afford, discriminated against because of their nationality and murdered for their faith. They were in a much more hostile and difficult situation than we, and Paul instructs them to submit, honor and obey.
Scripture clearly teaches us that God is our king and ultimate authority, and whenever the governing power of the day commands us to sin – either by commission or omission – then we must choose to submit to God and not man (Acts 5.29). Paul is not instructing Christians to sin by way of obedience to authorities, but he is teaching us that since God has established governments, we must respect the office. We may not like the man, but we must respect and follow the morally neutral laws in practice.
Living in a democracy where we have the ability to vote and to change law, it is good and right for us to be active in the political world – to the best of our abilities – to see that no laws are written or enforced which would go against God’s commandments. Having the freedom of speech and the ability to affect our political world, we as Christians should be vocal and we should be involved. This is a gift from God that many nations never had. However, we should always exemplify the fruit of the Spirit and kindness of God in our words and in our actions. We may hate the laws, systems and morality for which Obama or Trump stand – but we can still disagree with them respectfully and honor the office of president or presidential candidate.
3. We must be mindful of our witness in our political conversations. It is considered taboo to discuss religion and politics in public. These are things about which people are passionate and that most consider personal. If you want to have a cordial dinner party, it is best to leave those topics at home. We, as Christians, however have been commanded to make disciples of all nations. And when we have met Jesus and He has transformed our lives from the inside out, we will not be able to keep from talking about Him. It is impossible to not discuss those things you love.
We cannot, however, be a witness for Jesus Christ while at the same time cursing our leaders and our political system.
“But no one can tame the tongue; it is a restless evil and full of deadly poison. With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the likeness of God; from the same mouth come both blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be this way. Does a fountain send out from the same opening both fresh and bitter water? Can a fig tree, my brethren, produce olives, or a vine produce figs? Nor can salt water produce fresh. Who among you is wise and understanding? Let him show by his good behavior his deeds in the gentleness of wisdom.
– James 3.8-13
We certainly can disagree and seek for change and hope for better for our nation without slandering, name calling, disrespecting and hating people or circumstances. And if we give in to our political passions and ruin our Christian witness, then we will lose our platform and ability to speak the truth of the Gospel into people’s lives.
4. Even if the next president brings about the End Times, it is going to be all right. One of the best tactics in fighting the sin of fear is to ask the question, “What is the worst that could happen?” If the plane crashes, if the dog bites, if cancer attacks – what is the worst that could happen? Death. Ultimately we are afraid of death. And while it is true that the event of death could be terrible and tragic, when we are freed from our bodies then we will be present with the Lord. Death is our entryway to eternity with God. We ultimately have nothing to fear.
Sure, we might fear loosing our jobs, being severely mangled or paralyzed or any other host of afflictions – but in these situations we have watched others faithfully walk and flourish through those circumstances and we can trust that God is working our circumstances out for our eternal good. But He is also working our death for our eternal good. Every person will die, and it will be through that experience that we finally get to meet Jesus face to face.
So what, then, if the next president takes us to new depths of depravity, the world is united under the leadership of the antichrist and the tribulation begins? What do we have to fear? Yes – there will be unthinkable atrocities that happen during that time, but ultimately we know how it will end: we will be with Jesus. And we can confidently and boldly proclaim that death has lost its sting:
“Oh death, where is your victory? Oh death, where is your sting?”
– 1 Cor 15.55
In summary: God is in control of our circumstances and our nation. He will place into power the person He has already chosen as the next president of the United States and we can trust God to be working all things together for the spiritual well being of those who love Him. Therefore, we should be respectable and honorable citizens, while taking full advantage of the political system under which we submit to fight for change in a God-honoring way. We must, through all of this, remember that our greatest goal is to make disciples and not affect policy. If we see Biblical laws enforced but no one has had a life-changing encounter with God, then we have done no eternal good. Therefore we should be mindful of our witness in how we speak, in how we act and the battles we choose: Let us seek to honor God first, make disciples second, and affect policy third.