An interesting thing has happened. Perhaps you noticed an election just past? Who didn’t, eh?
Do you remember 8 years ago. When George W Bush was elected, much of the church was excited. Right or wrong, we breathed easier because we believed that we had “God’s man” in the highest office of the land. (This was more true among believers who focused more on the spiritual than on the social, of course; the other end of the spectrum was appalled.)
When the “liberal media” attacked him, demeaned him, smeared his reputation, we were saddened and angered. In the eight years he’s been in office, they have not relented, but only increased the pressure. Some would argue that this fact was foundational in the successful election of Barack Obama: we weren’t electing a black man or a liberal man or a democrat as much as we were ousting the man we had vilified for most of a decade, and everyone near him was painted with the same brush. The reality is that there was a great deal of public outcry among the more liberal among us, speaking uncomplimentary things about him as often as they spoke of him.
During the recent election season, I heard similar dismay about Mr. Obama, this time from the more conservative among us, and this includes much of the church world. Many among us were looking to John McCain as our only hope; there was much fear about Mr. Obama. Then – moments after the campaigning started – the mudslinging started. If the candidates and their campaigns were un-lovely, their supporters were less reserved; they were deceptive, bigoted, and downright vile.
Those among us who had supported Mr. McCain’s campaign – perhaps largely for moral reasons – considered him to be the recipient of the greater amount of mudslinging. We were saddened and angered at the often unfair attacks against him, but we were mostly fearful of Senator Obama: this inexperienced, pro-abortion man of unclear faith and questioned loyalty was considering leading our nation? It was hard to imagine.
Now Mr. Obama is President-elect Obama. Now what do we do?
The precedent is clear: the supporters of the defeated candidate increase the mudslinging, the civil disobedience, the vilification. That’s what this nation has done so well after so many elections before: if there was disrespect shown during the election, then there were many and awful things said against them during their office: the victorious candidate was vilified, pilloried and subverted at every opportunity.
I am proposing another response.
Barack Hussein Obama will be our president in this country, beginning the middle of next month. I propose that, beginning now, if not sooner, we treat the man with respect, if not for his own sake (though I would argue that every human being is worthy of respect), then for the sake of his office.
1) Pray for him: Pray for the man. Pray for his office. Pray for his family (I can’t imagine raising children in the White House). Paul writes to Timothy: “Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men, for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior.”(1 Timothy 2:1-3)
2) Honor him: speak of him with respect. Yeah, I know: the disrespect, the vilification is part of the process of preparing for the next election: don’t do it. Peter instructs us to “Honor all people. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the king.” (1 Peter 2:17) I would go so far as to argue that “honoring” Mr. Obama (or anyone else, for that matter has a lot to do with treating them the way that God sees them more than the way his political enemies see him. That’s a far more appropriate way for believers to deal with leaders, isn’t it?
3) Seek the welfare of his government: Pray towards, speak towards, even work towards the success of his policies, his administration. In Jeremiah 29, the prophet is writing to the exiles: “But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the LORD on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.” (Jeremiah 29:7 NRSV) It is our job as believers to seek the wellbeing of the city that governs us, and the government of that city and this nation.
One last statement before I finish: Mr. Obama will be our president, not our king. While he deserves our honor and our support, he is not our ultimate authority. Jesus said “Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's.” (Matthew 22:21) Paul echoed the statement in his letter to the Romans: “Render therefore to all their due: taxes to whom taxes are due, customs to whom customs, fear to whom fear, honor to whom honor.” (Romans 13:7) There are some things that don’t belong to Mr. Obama, but belong to God.
Barack Obama will be our president. If we don’t support his administration, then we are free to work to support his opponent in the next election, free to appropriately influence our representatives and other governmental representatives. But we are not free to dishonor the man.
Yay and amen.
Wow. Knowing you, that's a very big statement, but I think you've got it right. No matter how much we get disrespected, in the end, we need to honor the man.
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