FENTON, MI – November 8, 2016 was a wonderful day for me. It was my birthday. I was born on an election day. My sister likes to tell the story that she was hoping for Nixon to win and for a baby sister. She got neither. I think she got over the disappointment but the jury is still out on that count. (Not the election part but the baby sister part.)
Are you disappointed with this past election day's results? What about the Electoral College vote on December 19, 2016? Whether you are happy or sad America will inaugurate a new president this month. So how do we, as the church, move forward? Does the Bible have anything to say about how to respond to civic leadership?
This is a good time to recall the lesson of the book of Daniel. The overarching theme of Daniel's experience is the sovereignty of God. In each of the first six chapters, we find the King of glory accomplishing His purpose during the reigns of Nebuchadnezzar, Belshazzar and Darius. In the second half of the book (chapters seven through twelve) we are treated to visions of the Lord of lords who controls both the present and the future. Just like in the book of Daniel, let us affirm that He is still King of all. We must place our trust in the Lord. Politics is a trust-trap. It lures us into a false sense of self determination. We have never, nor will we ever, be able to vote into office a man or a woman that will bring about spiritual reform or revival. Let me quote the words of the watcher that spoke to Nebuchadnezzar, “This matter is by the decree of the watchers, and the demand by the word of the holy ones: to the intent that the living may know that the most High ruleth in the kingdom of men, and giveth it to whomsoever he will, and setteth up over it the basest of men.” (Daniel 4:17 KJV)
So with God in charge what is the church to do? Peter gives us a clear calling to walk respectfully and to do good even when the government does neither. In the second chapter of his first epistle, Peter instructs the church to be involved in good works for the sake of the lost “Gentiles” among whom we live. But then a very interesting command comes up. It's not, feed the poor or visit the homeless or raise money for our favorite cause-of-the-moment. Listen to the words of the apostle, “Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord's sake: whether it be to the king, as supreme; Or unto governors, as unto them that are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers, and for the praise of them that do well.” (1 Peter 2:13-14 KJV)
We don't like that word “submit” very well, but notice how Peter couches the command. He says that we do it “for the Lord's sake.” It is glorifying to God when we submit to the governing authorities and a part of an “honest” lifestyle that we are to lead before a lost world. Remember the conditions Peter was living under when he was inspired to write this. Nero was Caesar. He cared nothing for Christ or the church, and blamed the fire of Rome on the Christians. A great persecution broke out against the church and it is in the light of such suffering that Peter teaches us to live humbly. He even frames it as a item of God's will for the church (1 Peter 2:15).
So how do we respond to this most recent change in civic leadership? First, we must understand that the hand of God is overseeing all things. Then, with that trust as a foundation, we must act like the church of Jesus Christ and humbly submit ourselves to the governing powers so that the world may see the life of Christ demonstrated in us. “Honour all men. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honour the king.” (1 Peter 2:17 KJV)
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
David B. Smith is a pastor and the founder and broadcaster of Daily Dose Radio, a five minute podcast studying the Psalms verse by verse.