"Do everything without complaining or arguing...” (Philippians 2:14). Now there’s something that isn’t being followed very well in the midst of this current election season. It seems that the right to free speech has spun out of control. Whether it’s Democrats and Republicans bashing each other, or candidates slamming their opponents with dishonest remarks, one thing is for sure. Respect for authority figures is in desperately short supply.
I am not in complete agreement about every issue with our current president. Neither am I in complete agreement with his opponent. Despite those differences of opinion and beliefs, one of them is currently my president and one or the other of them will be president for the next four years. Scripture tells us to pray for those in authority. Pray? Aren’t we supposed to nitpick their faults and post rude remarks on Facebook?
In 1 Timothy 2:1-4, Paul wrote, “I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone — for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.”
Scripture also tells us to submit to governing authorities. Even if we don’t like them? “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” (1 Peter 2:13-18).
What if you didn’t vote for that particular leader or they do not hold your religious beliefs? Is it OK to be disrespectful then? “Remind the people to be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready to do whatever is good, to slander no one, to be peaceable and considerate, and to show true humility toward all men” (Titus 3:1-2).
What else does the Bible have to say about our relationship to people in positions of authority?
“Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves” (Romans 13:1-2).
Remember who is really in charge. God establishes the authority because He is the ultimate authority. Submit to leadership unless obeying them would be ultimately be an act of disobedience to God. Peter wrote one of the above-mentioned verses about submitting to authority, yet he also said, “We must obey God rather than men!” when ordered to stop teaching about Jesus (Acts 5:29). The Hebrew midwives did not carry out the king of Egypt’s command to kill all the Hebrew baby boys (Exodus 1:16-17). Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego would not bow to the image of gold (Daniel 3:13-20). Unconditionally submitting to anyone other than God would be idolatry. Daniel continued to pray to God even when it was against the law (Daniel 6:10).
In the words of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, pastor and resistor of the Nazi dictatorship, “Silence in the face of evil is itself evil. God will not hold us guiltless. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.”
Some leaders are good and some are not. God puts authority figures into position to serve His purposes whether or not we understand. Nebuchadnezzar was the king who had the Israelites carried off to Babylon and into captivity. God referred to him as “my servant” on a number of occasions (Jeremiah 25:9, 27:6, 43:10) even though he was a ruthless and evil king.
I can’t imagine a more difficult job in the world than to be president of the United States. God is sovereign. We are to pray. To be respectful. And as good stewards of the rights we have been given in this country, to vote.
• Lisa Jisa and her family have been residents of Ahwatukee Foothills since 2000. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.