This piece was first posted four years ago today. I find that it is just as relevant now as it was then and can only hope that people who claim to follow Christ will exhibit Christ-like character no matter what their political position may be. It is deeply concerning to me that I see many Christians, politically right and left and theologically right and left, who have made their political ideology superior to their Biblical commands. By that I mean, many people are interpreting Scripture in light of their politics and not their politics in light of Scripture. I think this because the vitriol that I see in the Christian on Christian attacks and ad hominem arguments are only possible if we are setting aside the things that Jesus taught us about our relationships and responding to one another out of human pride, bitterness, and anger.

With that said, I trust that the following will speak to you and that you will be encouraged to trust in an almighty God who has been running the universe very well, long before you and I ever showed up on the scene to tell Him how to do it.

First published in November of 2008

“This morning I was confronted with one of those Bible passages with which we like to do one of two things. It is a passage that we either try to ignore altogether or explain it away so that we become convinced that it could never apply to our situation. The passage deals with giving honor to leaders, even bad leaders, even if you vehemently disagree with what they are doing. The words come from the Apostle Peter in 1st Peter 2:13, 14 and 17. “13 Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme, 14 or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do evil and praise those who do good…17 Honor everyone. Love the Brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the Emperor” Peter goes on to talk about also honoring your boss as well as being willing to suffer for doing good. Those are not easy things to put into practice.

Now before I go any further let me make it clear, in the last election I voted for the other guy so this is not coming from an apologist for the current administration. Rather, I am trying to look at this from the standpoint of making Christian witness a priority over political ideology. What I have seen in recent months, in terms of political rancor and vitriol is not new, at least not in my eyes. One advantage of being a child of the sixties is I have seen demonstrations against the government that make the G-20 demonstrators look like a Sunday school class out for an ice cream social. So I am not concerned about the general population getting all angry and nasty in politics. That is nothing new no matter what the media says. What does concern me is the level ridicule, bitterness, and anger bordering on hatred that is being poured out by many claiming to follow Christ. Instead of attacking the issues that we disagree over, many are falling into the time-honored tradition of attacking the person expressing the ideas.

I always find it humbling to the extreme that the first century Christians continued to honor the Emperor with the exception of worshiping him as a god, even as he was having some of them put to death for their faith. Peter makes it clear why this was to be the practice of Christ-followers. 1st Peter 2:21-23 says, “For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in His footsteps. He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in His mouth. When He was reviled, He did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten, but continued entrusting Himself to Him who judges justly.” That is the kind of life that we as Christ-followers are to demonstrate to the world around us.

But what is the purpose in it? Peter also makes that clear. We are to live this way, honoring those in authority even when they make us suffer so that they will glorify God. “Keep your conduct honorable among the gentiles so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.” 1st peter 2:12 This is why I say I am more concerned with our Christian witness than I am with political ideology. Peter says that the ultimate goal is NOT for us to shape the government. Certainly we are to be involved in the process but if we get the public policy we want and do not live in such a way that leads people to people glorify God, then we have failed. It would be better to have lost the policy debate and have won people to Jesus than to have won the debate and lost our witness and our souls.

This is why Peter says that we are to honor others. We are to treat them with respect and dignity, even serving them while we disagree with their policy or their methods. We debate the issues. We don’t attack the person. We should be involved in the public debate in order to demonstrate what a Christ-follower is really like, not just what we think, but how we love and honor others. So disagree all you want with President Obama, with your governor, mayor, town dog catcher. If you are in another country the same applies to you. Disagree with policy but honor the office and the person in it. It may mean that you will suffer for disagreeing, because we should never be surprised when unbelievers don’t play by our rules. But that is never an excuse for us to do anything differently from how Jesus did it.”

Comments
  1. Cristal says:

    “…many people are interpreting Scripture in light of their politics and not their politics in light of Scripture” — Amen. I wondered this morning why, when things are going our way, we gleefully declare our trust in God; but when things turn south, we turn up the volume on our complaining and accusing. If I trust Him, I trust Him always. And I do. We are pilgrims, strangers and aliens. Just passing through on a mission to build God’s kingdom. Let’s remember to not get “entangled” in the affairs of civilian life (2 Tim 2:4). Thanks for the reminder today. Good word.

    (Speaking of mission…we leave in less than 2 weeks to head back to Guatemala to assist a full-time missionary there! Super excited!! Use us, Lord!) 🙂

  2. Phil says:

    Love your stance! I totally agree. I feel many of my fellow Christians have thrown out their witness the last two elections. Unfortunately I, and probably non-believers, have lost respect for their voice because of it.

  3. TammyO says:

    Never been so disheartened; people I look up to and respect have been so blatantly disrespectful and such a contradictory example of Christ-followers. I grieve while witnessing the number of lost opportunities to build relationships because of the personalization and mud slinging. Yet, simultaneously I choose to praise God for reminding me through it all that it is ONLY him I should trust. I also am reminded that people are… well [as my dad says] “mere mortals”. So why am I surprised by my brethern’s responses and reactions? Because it seems that we have forgotten that the word addresses submission to governing authorities (Romans 13:1 – “Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God.”) If God is in control, then he knows the plan and the outcome. And so instead, [we] Christians should profess our faith and love, not our political agenda. They will [only] know we ARE Christians by our love… Can we refocus on the Northeast’s needs, hunger, homeless, widows, orphans, ect.?

    THANKS for your words Dan…always right on…

  4. Ellie says:

    I think some of these ideas are right on. As an atheist I see the world becoming more secular and I thank the so called “Christians” we see in the politics and media for that. Who would ever want to be associated with their vitriol and lies? I have asked myself. Now, 20% of the population considers themselves non religious. You good folks need to take back your word “Christian” and use another name for those who are dragging it thru the mud. The rest of us are associating those hateful people with all Christians. Of course, I hope for a time when we don’t have religion anymore but if more Christians were actually Christ like then I think we could all live together.

  5. Wayne Gulley says:

    Great post! Enjoyed reading it and I agree 100%. I think the last election was even more difficult because the choices were between ‘bad and worse’ and I will leave you to determine who to assign these descriptions to. Clearly in my mind, there was no good choice. As a believer I was deeply disappointed by President Obama’s ‘evolution’ in thinking on ‘social issues’. Social issues with clear disparaging moral implications for which he claims to be a follower of Christ.

    On the other hand, we had a man who’s belief system states he will become like a god. Notice the lower case in the word…Because there is only one true God, the Lord Jesus Christ.

    So we are called to pray for our leaders and that is what I do. I recognize that we are living in very troubling times. Times when black is called white and white is called black and what we have more than anything else is ’50 shades of Gray’ dominating our culture.

    I like your site and I have both a blog and website too that addresses many social concerns from a biblical perspective. If your not too busy check me out and God Bless!

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