December 17, 2017

Honor to Whom Honor is Due

Joel Arnold

All three debates done and less than 2 weeks left. Yesterday I overheard a loud conversation at a table next to me: “Obama lied so many times last night, Romney has to win.” Glad that’s taken care of. On the way home we passed a car covered in bumper stickers. “Republicans oppose big government for the same reasons criminals hate cops.” Good thing we have intelligent, balanced discourse in this country.

But actually, the ridicule, denunciations and squabbling in the public space don’t really bother me right now. That’s always happened in politics—in fact, our system encourages it.

What bothers me is when the rancor comes from Christians.

Let me qualify. Christians are allowed to disagree. I think Christians should be involved in the political process and express ourselves. I also strongly believe that the present administration has been disastrous and sometimes anti-God. I’m praying for a change.

But is it okay to call our president “pitiful”? Or to say that “he’s unfit to be called human?” Is it fair to liken him to some of the worst dictators the world has known? Maybe now is a good time to review the biblical commands about politics. Scripture gives 3:

  1. Be subject (Rom. 13:1; 1 Pet 2:13). Paul goes on to say that they have been instituted by God and are in place as His ministers to uphold good conduct. Relative to governance across human history and the world, we still have an extraordinarily efficient system. I once heard someone compare Mr. Obama to Robert Mugabe. Are we so comfortable and clueless in the world’s biggest economy that we lower ourselves to that?
  2. Honor (1 Pet. 2:17). The word means “to show high regard for, honor, revere.” It’s worth noting that Peter wrote specifically to people being persecuted and killed for their faith. Let’s imagine a world where family members have been executed by government authorities for getting baptized. And then you get a letter instructing you to honor the person responsible for that. Does honor mean you can’t criticize the president? No, but it should at least point us to focus more on issues in the policies and platform than abusive attacks on the person.
  3. Pray (1 Tim. 2:1-6). The passage specificies two reasons. (1) We should pray for the king/emperor/president to be saved because God “desires all men to be saved,” democrats included. (2) We should pray for the president because when the country runs well it contributes to peace, opening more avenues for the gospel (God “desires all men to be saved”). There are plenty of lost people to pray for, but biblically, we have a special responsibility toward this man and our other leaders. So here’s one way to test how you’re doing. When was the last time you dedicated personal time to pray for Barack Obama? Do you pray that he’ll run the country well (Jer. 29:7) and that he’ll get saved? Could you honestly say you’ve spent as much time honoring and praying for him as bashing him?

A little over a month ago, I happened to be staying 3 miles from an Obama rally. I got my fill of bad ideas, surrounded by people enthusiastically cheering for policy I can never agree with. But I also got close enough to the president that if I jumped for it I could have touched him. It would have increased my relationship with the secret service and derailed a few other life goals, but I could have done it. Seeing him that close, I was struck by how normal he looks in person. Just a living, breathing, frail human being who will face eternity someday. And while I disagree with the president as much as I ever did, I was also convicted by my failure to pray for him.

Eleven days from now we’ll know who our next president is. There’s a good chance he’ll be the man I saw last month. If that happens, I’ll certainly be disappointed. But don’t forget that our first responsibilities as a born-again member of the electorate are to be subject, honor, and pray—because our responses towards Barack Obama ultimately say something about the King of Kings.

Joel Arnold is an appointee with Gospel Fellowship Association Missions. He is raising funds for future ministry in the Philippines.

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