Respect the President
I am a conservative. Just ask anyone who knows me. I’m not somewhere right of center, I’m somewhere right of Ronald Reagan.
So it may surprise you that I am dismayed by two recent events: the outburst of Rep. Joe Wilson, who yelled “You lie!” as President Obama addressed Congress concerning his health care plan, and the outcry of so many conservatives against the President addressing our nation’s school children.
Why am I dismayed? Because though I am a conservative, I am first and foremost a Christian. However strongly I hold my political views (and I do), they are nothing compared to my convictions as a follower of Christ. My politics is and must be subservient to my faith. And these recent displays of disrespect for the President violate the Christian faith.
Sincere Christians should consider carefully God’s word in 1 Peter 2:11-17: “Dear friends, I urge you, as aliens and strangers in the world, to abstain from sinful desires, which war against your soul. Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us. Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every authority instituted among men: whether to the king, as the supreme authority, or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right. For it is God’s will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish men. Live as free men, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as servants of God. Show proper respect to everyone: Love the brotherhood of believers, fear God, honor the king.”
Notice the basic premise for this argument: Christians are only temporary residents in this earth. We don’t truly belong here. In the words of Albert E. Brumley, “This troubled world is not my final home, I’m just a passing through.”
Such circumstances require a change in attitude and behavior. We think and act differently when we’re in someone else’s home or country. Why? We want to reflect well on our own homeland. We want to enjoy favor and avoid conflict in our temporary residence.
The world may allow politics to consume every thought and govern its behavior, but when the Christian encounters these street brawls on our way to our true home, God’s word is clear—just keep moving.
Notice that the above passage outlines appropriate behavior en route to our celestial city, generally concerning our actions and specifically concerning our attitudes toward civil government.
Generally, we are told to not yield to our sinful passions, because they conflict with the well-being of our souls. Passionate feelings press us to entangle ourselves in this world’s affairs, to wade into the fray. But Christ calls us to rise above those passions. If we will do that, our behavior will distinguish us as His followers, show the world a better way of handling differences, and ultimately bring glory to God.
Therefore, God commands Christians to submit to every rightful authority He has placed over us. Do it for Christ’s sake. Why? Because this is God’s winsome way of changing the minds and hearts of Christ’s detractors. A meek and gentle spirit is infinitely more powerful than any passionate protest. It sounds counter-intuitive, I know. But God’s way is always opposite the way of the world.
Why are such passions raised in the first place? I feel certain that behind the bad acts are sincerely good motives. We are passionate to protect our freedom. And we should be. (Rep. Wilson quickly apologized, saying he let his emotions get the better of him.)
But let us never forget that the ultimate freedom is spiritual freedom. Whom Christ has made free is free indeed. We are not slaves to our passions, so we need not obey them when they conflict with our spiritual good. We are freed from such tyranny and should live in that freedom. But freedom is no cloak for bad behavior. We may be freed from serving our passions, but we are still servants of God. And we should live like it.
What does that mean in practical terms? Peter answers with brevity and clarity. We are to show respect to everyone. We must love the brotherhood (i.e., live in love for those Christ has redeemed); fear God (i.e., show reverence for the source of all authority); and honor the king (i.e., respect also those to whom God has delegated authority in this world).
Those are the Biblical principles that this conservative Christian wants to conserve.