What if I don’t like our president?

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

Our favorite sin

gossip

Let’s be honest.  Each of us has a scale of sins and wickedness by which we gauge and evaluate our personal morality and self-worth.  There are things that we would never consider in our day-to-day lives, like murder.  We think through the ten commandments and think, “I would never rob someone, I would never kill someone, I would never…” and walk away feeling pretty good about ourselves.

Then there are those sins of temptation with which we wrestle.  Sins of disposition, if you will.  We are all born with or inclined socially to certain sins:  white lies, fudging on our taxes, exaggeration, gossip, pride, slander, etc.  Some of us might be inclined to the large-scale sins like murder and grand larceny, but for the average Joe, it is typically these sins of the heart and more personal sins that tempt us on a regular basis.

But lastly there are those sins that we actually enjoy and with which we have made peace.  These are those most dangerous of sins.  Any sin with which we have made peace can potentially separate us from God.  Forever.  Again, it can be any of the listed sins from the major or tempting sins, but they are typically sins of the heart.  And what is most terrifying about these sins is that we not only accept them and allow them to continue in our own lives, but we also are keenly aware of other Christians preforming them and we give them approval in doing so.

This is a terrifying reality, of which the Bible speaks extremely harshly:

“And just as they did not see fit to acknowledge God any longer, God gave them over to a depraved mind, to do those things which are not proper, being filled with all unrighteousness, wickedness, greed, evil; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, malice; they are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, arrogant, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, without understanding, untrustworthy, unloving, unmerciful; and although they know the ordinance of God, that those who practice such things are worthy of death, they not only do the same, but also give hearty approval to those who practice them.”

– Rom 1.28-32

Read through that list again slowly.  It is a depraved mind that is full of greed or envy.  It is wickedness to gossip or slander.  Pride, insolence, any strife or boasting.  Disobedient to parents!  Anyone who is unloving, untrustworthy, or without understanding.  This mention of understanding is not knowledge based, it is someone who carelessly passes by someone in need – perhaps with a disability – and just continues about their own lives without concern for the person in need.  Do you avoid that mentally handicapped person who shows up at your church every week?

Pride, slander and gossip are so detrimental and yet so much a part of our lives.  In the church world, we might have felt convicted about any of those three, but in order to continue to placate our flesh, we dress them up as prayer requests.  “Please pray for Suzie Q, you won’t believe what happened…”  Or, “We really need to remember John Doe, he is struggling with…”  Or even still, “Pray for me, I really need/deserve/am angry at…”

We, if we allow this kind of attitude and conversation within the church are just as guilty as those who do it:  We “give hearty approval” by listening to their prayer requests, throwing out a verbal hail mary, and entertaining the sin (Rom 1.32).

But the danger of this sin is eternal:

“For if we go on sinning willfully after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a terrifying expectation of judgment and the fury of a fire which will consume the adversaries.

– Heb 10.26-27

John teaches us that there is grace when we sin, provided we confess it, repent from it and never make peace with it (1 John 2.1).  Where we enter into dangerous territory is when we consider these palatable sins excusable.  When they are no longer bitter in our mouths or hearts, and we choose to enjoy them or receive the momentary pleasure that comes from them.

Hear me clearly, all sin is desirable.  It is a very rare occasion that any of us would give in to a sin that we despise and hate.  Sexual sin feels good in the moment.  Stealing provides a rush and the pleasure of ownership, if even momentary.  Lying pads one’s ego and creates some sense of image or appearance that is not true.  Even murder might provide some level of pleasure for some people.  Drunkenness pleases the senses and removes the worries of the world.

But when we are given Spiritual life by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, He enters into our worlds and rocks them.  It is His purpose and job to convict us of sin and push us on to holiness – helping us and empowering us to stop sinning unto the glory of God:

“And [the Spirit], when He comes, will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment…”

– John 16.8

Thomas Watson teaches us well,

“Until sin be bitter, Christ will not be sweet.”

When we choose to sin in light of His prodding and conviction in our hearts, we grieve The Holy Spirit who is working to convict us and make us hate sin.  How do we keep from grieving him?  Paul tells us clearly:

“Therefore, laying aside falsehood, speak truth each one of you with his neighbor, for we are members of one another.  Be angry and yet do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and do not give the devil an opportunity.  He who steals must steal no longer; but rather he must labor, performing with his own hands what is good, so that he will have something to share with one who has need.  Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear.  Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.  Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice.  Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.”

– Eph 4.25-32

Slander and gossip are extremely dangerous.  Jesus said that we will each give an account for every careless word that comes out of our mouths (Matt 12.36).  God promises to destroy anyone who slanders his neighbor (Ps 101.5).  So let us not take it lightly.  Let us examine our own hearts and those with whom we interact in the Church.  Let us claim with Augustine:

“Let those who like to slander the lives of the absent know their own are not worthy of this table.”

– Augustine

All sins with which we make peace are damnable and can separate us from God.  Let us press on to fight these sins in our own lives and in the lives of those whom we love.  Let us put it away, remove it from our lives, our churches and our hearts.  Let us learn to hate the taste of sin – that it would bitter – so that Christ alone tastes sweet and we can grow in maturity.