At the end of eight years, the general population is almost always ready for a change. In the history of our country, it has only happened a couple of times that one political party was able to see their candidate take office after eight years. We see ourselves getting too progressive and long to return to our heritage and then we feel so stuck in our ways that we need some serious change. New generations rise up and consider their values earth-shattering and they rock the country, only to get bogged down in the mundane and a new generation rises up.
For the next month and a half we are in a unique situation where we still have an acting president but the next one has already been chosen. This means something profoundly true: almost everyone very strongly dislikes one of the two men. The voting world who chose President Elect Donald Trump is sick and tired of Barack Obama, while many others still consider him to be one of the best presidents our country has known and fear that Trump is going to single handedly destroy our nation and “undo all the progress we have seen” these past eight years. In short, if you are neutral about both men – or possibly even like both men, you are probably very far removed from politics.
One of the attributes that makes our nation unique and great in many people’s eyes is our first amendment: our freedom of speech. We can say whatever we darn well feel like saying and no one can harm us for it – or judge us, as the culture now states. There are some tricky aspects to that as we can still be legally protected from slander and harassment, but none of us lives in fear that our daily conversation, our social media posts or even our blog posts will land us in jail. We have an inalienable right to our opinions and we will make them known.
God, however, has a different opinion about all of that. Slander, gossip and disrespect are all sins – which are fundamentally rooted in pride, arrogance and selfishness.
“Whoever slanders his neighbor secretly I will destroy. Whoever has a haughty look and an arrogant heart I will not endure.”
– Ps 101.5
“The one who conceals hatred has lying lips, and whoever utters slander is a fool.”
– Prov 10.18
“Speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy toward all people.”
– Titus 3.2
God simply and profoundly commands us to speak evil of no one. Not only that, he clearly and profoundly commands us to respect our leaders:
“Honor all people, love the brotherhood, fear God, honor the king.”
– 1 Peter 2.17
One might object to this commandment because of how wicked our current or upcoming president is. We simply cannot respect or honor a man who (fill in the blank). But Peter was writing to the early church who was being persecuted and murdered. The people were “scattered” across the known world – they were running for their lives. And Peter’s command was to honor the king: the king who would murder them for loving and serving Jesus. Is Obama murdering us? Is Trump threatening to murder us? Are we running for our lives? Even if this were the case we would still be commanded to honor the president.
One may object further and cite our form of government which allows us a voice in choosing our leadership and laws. “We must speak out and help others make informed decisions.” “It is our civic duty to have a strong opinion and to play our role.” Yes, I whole-heartedly agree that we live in a unique and wonderful country whereby we are granted a part (albeit a very small part) of the decision making process. This is why presidential candidates spend months and millions of dollars campaigning: they must win our vote!
I would also argue, however, that there is a good and right way to make informed decisions and even to disagree with the values and positions a candidate would take while still respecting and honoring him (or her). There is even a godly way to recognize a candidate’s moral failures, sin and perceived lack of qualification without slander, gossip and sin.
The reality is simple. We live in a fallen world. We are functioning in a fallen and broken system. Democracy is not God’s form of government! We are allowing ourselves to be governed by fallen and broken people. Even if our president were the most mature and godly man to walk the face of the Earth, he would still be a sinner and a man. He would make mistakes and we would disagree with him on something. And each of us are fallen and broken people. Imperfect people will choose imperfect leaders and mistakes will be made. Period. And yet we are commanded to respect and honor one another, and we are commanded to respect and honor our leadership.
Scripture does clearly command us to fight sin and pursue holiness. Thus we see the example of Jesus, the apostles and many others to disobey the leadership when they would have us sin or not follow God (Acts 4.19. 5.29). We also have the example of some of the greatest forefathers in our faith standing up against political sin, such as Dietrich Bonhoeffer and the abundance of people who fought against the slaughter of the Jews and non-Arians in WWII. We must never follow blindly, we must always evaluate our own actions and our government by Scripture, and we must refuse to sin even when we would be commanded to by men. And we are fortunate enough to live in a society where we might be able to make an impact and bring about change!
But this in no way changes God’s expectation of us that we love all men and that we honor the position of king (or president in our nation).
So let me simply ask you this question: Are your facebook posts and your political conversations Biblically loving, respecting and honoring the president? Have you slandered Trump, Hillary or Obama? Sure, you might do a better job. Sure, you might know better. But God does not give us a pass to disrespect or not love someone just because we know better. He sovereignly and intentionally places every king and president in power. Do you trust Him for that? Do you follow His leadership when He gives you an opportunity to make a positive change? Do you obey Him and respect authority?
You do not have to like your leader. You do not have to agree with him either. In fact, you are expected to weigh your actions and obedience against Scripture an never sin in the things that you do – therefore you should intensely evaluate your leadership But you must love him. And you must respect him. Otherwise, we bring the condemnation of God upon ourselves:
“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.”
– Rom 13.1-2
Slander is still slander when spoken against our leadership. Gossip is still gossip when spoken against our leadership. Whether you distrust or dislike our current president or our future one. Let us examine ourselves and remember our tongues.
“If anyone thinks himself to be religious, and yet does not bridle his tongue but deceives his own heart, this man’s religion is worthless.”
– James 1.26