I recently passed my 54th birthday. This means I have been alive since John F Kennedy’s presidency and began my voting days during the Reagan vs Carter election. I grew up in a home that was conservative yet interested in what happened politically. I remember hearing my parents talk about the elections as a child but never remember hearing degrading, derogatory, or slanderous speech concerning any candidate. As an Air Force pilot my dad believed that the president was commander in chief and it was his duty (and ours) to trust leadership. My mom also reiterated this belief.
When I later became a Christian I had read the Bible many times through and knew that my faith needed to penetrate my political views. However, since the Clinton vs Bush vs Perot elections I have become acutely aware that some Christians can, and have been, downright disrespectful in their language about the president, or candidates in political office. I was shocked, as a young man, hearing the negative language by older (supposedly mature) Christian men and women concerning “the other candidates” (I voted for Perot—twice—yet chose to support whoever was elected to the office). While I haven’t agreed with all presidents (nor voted for all who have been in office since I had the right to vote) I knew that I had to respect, honor, speak well of, pray for, and submit to whoever God allowed to lead our country. I also knew that if I was commanded to pray for and love an enemy (someone who directly hurt and mistreated me) or elders who led me spiritually (even if I believed they were “not the leaders Jesus called them to be”) then I should easily be able to pray for a leader (male or female) who was doing their best to do what Ross Perot called a “dirty job.” Even more if our leaders are human and in God’s image (like me) then Jesus expects me to treat them with respect. This applied to how I spoke about them as well.
My reasons were simple. The Bible told me so. End of discussion.
Read the language of our apostles who wrote during a time when Nero was the Roman Emperor.
“Do you want to not be afraid of the one in authority? Do what is right and he (she) will praise you.” Romans 13:3
“Submit to authorities not because of wrath [of the emperor or God] but out of conscience.” Romans 13:7
“Submit (respect) to the emperor in high authority…Honor the emperor.” 1 Peter 2:13, 17
Or as one Christian historian wrote in the first century…“Christians obey the laws and by their lives overcome the law…” Epistle to Diognetes 5:10.
I sometimes hear, when referencing these verses, “Yes, but…” However in the Greek, I don’t see “kai de…” (which I think would be the equivalent of Yes, but…).
Jesus’ people had an opportunity. They could take it or leave it. They took it.
This was one of the attractive qualities of Christianity.
What I think is interesting is that the Bible, and early Christians, submitted, prayed for, and honored the Roman Emperor Nero. He may have been one of the worst and corrupt rulers of his day. The ancient Roman historian Seutonius wrote of Nero, “Nero was now so universally loathed that no bad enough abuse could be found for him.” When he died citizens celebrated their freedom (like the scene where Scrooge witnessed the celebration of his death). Yet as awful a man and ruler as Nero was, Jesus’ people not only honored him, they lived as people who were obedient and submissive to the laws of their land. Yes I know they died when it came to confessing Jesus as Lord. But they were people who were know for practicing love, peace, respect, and honor to all humans (including leaders).
Now that both Republican and Democratic conventions have concluded and their nominees look to election day, the mud slinging will continue to grow worse. Television will bubble with political character assassination ads, our phone lines will continue to ring with voter news, and Facebook will continue to stir our passions, anger, and thoughts on the various candidates. Will God’s people join in?
I’ve spent 8 years hearing/reading horrible language about a black president–all prefaced with “I’m not racist but…” We have the potential for a female president. Will we speak respectfully of a woman, or will it be prefaced with “I know men should be respectful of women but…”
Jesus’ people have an opportunity—and we can take it or leave it.
We complain because young people are leaving our churches. We complain because we don’t like an issue a candidate upholds. We complain because we feel as if God has brought us into the darkest of days and we see no future. We complain because Americans see Christians as a problem. We complain because “the other side” doesn’t understand why we choose the candidate we choose.
We complain because we don’t want to call the president by their name—so we call them POTUS.
Bottom line is that we complain.
Did Jesus give us the opportunity to complain or speak disgracefully of a candidate?
Or does the Bible tell us to do what we do, be zealous for good works, and earn the praise of our leaders?
Maybe things are getting darker because we are complaining? Maybe younger people leave because they don’t see respect, honor, and good works. Maybe instead of proclaiming on Facebook that we like or don’t like an issue—we should do our jobs, love people, and show mercy. Maybe we see no future because we pray for things to change rather than changing ourselves. Maybe we are viewed as a problem because we are a problem.
We have an opportunity.
We can be a people who are seen as a transformative movement in our nation, our communities, and the lives of others.
We can be the people who rise up and tell our leaders, “I’m here and you can count on me to do what God has called me to do.”
We can be the people who are wanted in our communities and nation, rather than those who are avoided. We can be the people who show hope through our support and respect.
We can be the people who, in light of any leadership “crisis”–show respect and honor to leaders.
Maybe then people will look to us for hope, answers, and solutions. Maybe then people will view our contributions as important in society.
We have an opportunity. Will we take it or leave it?