I recently had an email from a very good friend concerning the debate about whether Christians should respect the President or not. A forward was sent my way from a prominent evangelical historian stating his reasons for not respecting President Obama, and after I read it, to be honest, I was frustrated. My frustration came from conflicting places - part of me agreed with his rant, and the other part felt like the rhetoric did not reflect the way of Christ. Here's my response to my friend's question, "Should Christians respect President Obama?" This is an interesting thought. There is a lot I would agree with - respecting the office versus respecting the views of the man in the office in particular. I think my struggle with this type of rhetoric is that nowhere in this communication do you hear biblical thoughts such as:
"Everyone must submit to governing authorities. For all authority comes form God, and those in positions of authority have been placed there by God."
- Romans 13:1
"'Love your neighbor as yourself.' Love does no wrong to others, so love fulfills the requirements of God's law."
- Romans 13:9,10
"Never pay back evil with more evil. Do things in such a way that everyone can see you are honorable. Do all that you can to live in peace with everyone."
- Romans 12:17,18
"You have heard the law that says, 'Love your neighbor' and hate your enemy. But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you! In that way, you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven ... If you love only those who love you, what reward is there for that? Even corrupt tax collectors do that much. If you are kind only to your friends, how are you different from anyone else? Even pagans do that. But you are to be perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect."
- Jesus in Matthew 5:43-48
Here's my thing:
- We have the right to stand up for what we believe in ... and we should.
- We have the responsibility to stand up for a biblical world view ... and we should.
- We have the duty as a citizen of this country to defend the foundations of our country including the right to religion.
- BUT, most Christians join the fray of advocacy with a misplaced zeal. They pursue the defense of the laws of the land instead of pursuing the state of people's hearts.
Jesus was always more interested in changing hearts than he was in changing minds. He navigated politics and religiosity with the perfect balance of TRUTH and LOVE, and so should we (See Ephesians 4:14, 15). Sadly, I don't see much of that balance in Christians today; they seem to be either full of truth without love, or full of love without truth. I believe both of those positions are dangerous to the Gospel.
Now, do I agree with the statements from a political standpoint? Actually, on most of them I do. But does that give me the right or freedom to disrespect the President? I'm not so sure about that. I'm not sure that the Bible teaches that it is ever appropriate to disrespect anyone, let alone the President.
I think about David and Saul. Saul is the king, anointed by God. David is to be the next king, already hand-picked by God. The two of them end up, miraculously, in the same cave while Saul is pursuing David to kill him. David sneaks up behind Saul (who is without a weapon, without armor, without anything because he is going to the bathroom!) and has the perfect opportunity to kill him.
A bloodless takeover! The already anointed, future king takes the place of the disobedient, Godless disaster of a king! What does David do?
"But then David's conscience began bothering him because he had cut Saul's robe. "The Lord knows I shouldn't have done that to my lord the king," he said to his men. The Lord forbid that I should do this to my king and attack the Lord's anointed one, for the Lord himself has chosen him." So david restrained his men and did not let them kill Saul." - 1 Samuel 24:5-7
David didn't even touch the king, he just cut off a corner of his robe - and he felt guilty for it!
When David confronts Saul outside of the cave, this is what he had to say: "May the Lord judge between us. Perhaps the Lord will punish you for what you are trying to do to me, but I will never harm you ... May the Lord therefore judge which of us is right and punish the guilty one. He is my advocate, and he will rescue me from your power!" - 1 Samuel 24:12, 15
Even David, God's chosen replacement for the king, wouldn't disrespect Saul, the wayward king who was trying to kill him, simply because his love for God was greater than his desire for the throne or the love of his country. Furthermore, note where David's allegiance and hope lays: "The Lord ... He is my advocate, and he will rescue me ..."
All of that is to say, while I may strongly disagree with President Obama on just about every front of governing a country and leading the American people, especially on spiritual matters, and while I have the right in America to speak my mind against his agenda, I will always do it in a way that respects him as a person and the office he holds - not because I agree with him or like what he is doing, but because my charge to be obedient to the way of Christ is greater than my right to freely disrespect the President.
Those are just my rambling thoughts ... let me know what you think.