What To Do About Political Leaders You Don't Like

by Nov 8, 2016

What To Do About Political Leaders You Don't Like

by Nov 8, 2016

What To Do About Political Leaders You Don't Like

by Nov 8, 2016

I’m in Southeast Asia this week, and every person I meet asks me (with an extremely worried face) about the election happening today in America. Every. Single. Person.

No matter what happens today, at least half of us will think it’s the end of the world as we know it. So what do we do then? How are we supposed to deal with leaders we disagree with? Even leaders we hate?

That’s a question Christians have been asking themselves for centuries. None more than the first-century Christians in Rome, who lived next door to the pagan Caesar. Paul said to them:

One must be in subjection, not only to avoid God’s wrath but also for the sake of conscience. For because of this you also pay taxes, for the authorities are ministers of God, attending to this very thing. Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed. (Romans 13:5-7).

We owe the authorities our resources, honor, and respect. Even when the people in authority aren’t worthy of much respect, we’re still obligated to respect the authority. Whether we agree with them or not. Whether we like them or not.

So how can we do that? How can we show respect and honor for authorities we don’t like? Three practical steps:

1. Trust God.

Paul said a few verses earlier that authority was given to every government authority directly by God. Adolf Hitler, Joseph Stalin, Saddam Hussein, Kim Jong Un, Ronald Reagan, George Bush, Bill Clinton, George W Bush, and Barack Obama were all put into positions of authority by God. So if we’re under that person’s authority, we need to respect him. He put that ruler in charge for a reason. Take Nebuchadnezzar. This guy was an indisputably evil king, but look at what God said about him:

I have given all these lands into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon, my servant. … If any nation or kingdom will not serve this Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, and put its neck under the yoke of the king of Babylon, I will punish that nation with the sword, with famine, and with pestilence, declares the Lord.  (Jer. 27:6-8)

The first step in respecting the people in authority is to respect the sovereign God who put them in authority.

2. Don’t get hysterical.

Christians are really good at getting hysterical. We’re experts at cooking up conspiracy theories about the government, and passing them around on Facebook, email forwards, and blog comments. I get emails nearly every day from Christian ministries who raise funds by spreading fear about how the church in America will die if we don’t fight the President, Congress, or Supreme Court right now.

But look what Isaiah said when the northern kingdom of Israel was forming an alliance with the wicked king of Assyria. Pagans were conspiring to take over Jerusalem, and Isaiah said to the king: “Do not call conspiracy all that this people calls conspiracy, and do not fear what they fear, nor be in dread. But the Lord of hosts, him you shall honor as holy. Let him be your fear, and let him be your dread” (Isaiah 8:10-13).

I’m imagining the king’s response was something, like, “Do not call this conspiracy? This is the very definition of a conspiracy! There are wicked people conspiring to overthrow God’s people!” But Isaiah was clear: those people might think they’re conspiring against God, but he is the Lord of Hosts. The king of the universe. What could they ever do against him?

If you fear God, you don’t need to fear the government or anyone else. And then you’re freed up for the next step:

3. Get involved.

Be a contributing member of society. That’s why Paul tells us to pay taxes. We need to be a part of the solution, not part of the problem. Many Christians have a negative view of the authorities and the culture, but Romans 13 gives us a positive view of government and society. We need to engage and contribute what we can, and the next few verses tell us how:

Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. For the commandments, “You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,” and any other commandment, are summed up in this word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law. (Rom 13:8-10)

It might sound like Paul is launching into a new topic here, but it’s clear from the way he structured his letter that his ideas about love and his ideas about the authorities are intertwined. When Paul talks about honoring and respecting the authorities, that’s an application of his command to “let love be genuine” in chapter 12. And when he talks about showing love in chapter 13, it’s an application of how we honor and respect the authorities.

We help the authorities govern well when we love the people around us. Think about how much easier life would be for the police if nobody every committed murder. If nobody ever coveted something so much he had to steal it. Think about how much easier life would be for the family court judges if nobody ever committed adultery. A major way we can contribute to society is by loving our spouses, kids, neighbors, and coworkers.

God said to the Israelites in Babylon, “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” (Jer 29:7). We can honor the authorities by proactively working and praying for the welfare of the nation, state, and island they govern.