Prayer, Respect, and Honour for the President
This article is not going to be about political advocacy for Hillary Clinton or President Donald Trump, or for the Republican or Democratic party. I have a more important message. For that, I want us to focus on 1 Timothy 2:1-4:
First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Saviour, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.”
I doubt I have to mention the palpable tensions between the left and the right that have grown exponentially since the 2016 presidential campaigns. Neither Hillary nor Trump are likable people. Hillary certainly has questionable character, and although Trump is following through on the promises he made to the nation, he comes across as a buffoon. In either case, neither of these two are very likable. Since Trump is our president, he is my focus here. No matter your political affiliation, you may not like Trump very much. In fact, you might even hate him. But, I say, get over it.
President Obama used to be my boss when I was in the Army—not my direct boss, but as Commander-in-Chief, he was my boss nonetheless. Disobeying my military orders would be disobeying the Commander-in-Chief, and I would suffer serious consequences if I disobeyed my orders. One of the first things I learnt in the Army from my superiors is that you don’t have to like the president as a person, but you certainly must respect his authority and his position. This principle also applied to my senior NCOs and commissioned officers in my direct chain of command. It didn’t matter what I thought of them; what mattered was the respect owed to them because of their position of authority. There were plenty of NCOs above me whom I did not like, but I had to swallow my pride and respect and obey them regardless of my feelings. I exhort us to do the same with President Trump, regardless of how you feel about him because, quite frankly, how you feel about him doesn’t matter. Imagine how much more of a mess our country would be in if policies were based on your feelings (e.g. policies have been legislated during Obama’s administration based on the feelings of the left, and as a result has led to severe division and discord).
Speaking on the God-given authority of government, Paul wrote, “Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honour to whom honour is owed” (Romans 13:7). Imagine how hard that must’ve been for Paul to write. Paul wrote this to the Christians in Rome during emperor Nero’s reign, and if you’re familiar with the historical context of Nero, you know about the horrible and absolutely violent persecution he committed against the Christians. Yet here Paul wrote to give respect and honour to whom they’re owed in government positions (even Nero) and to pay their taxes! Paul had it much worse than we do in America, and yet we fail significantly to give respect and honour to whom they are owed whether that be in law enforcement or towards the President. Even worse, the left are demonising the people who voted for Trump, claiming that they are racists, sexists, homophobes, transphobes, believe they’re superior to everyone else, and various other falsities. Even people who claim to be Christians are doing this! (More on this later.)
I get that many are angry with the outcome of the election. Yet, I urge, “Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger” (Ephesians 4:26). It’s okay to be angry. God gave us emotions, after all. Yet acknowledge your anger and deal with it healthfully; do not allow your anger to give you occasion to sin. If you’re happy about the outcome of the election, be happy, but I urge you not to flaunt your happiness in front of those who are unhappy. If you’re unhappy with the election, don’t sin against your neighbours who voted for Trump by demonising them, verbally and physically attacking them, and falsely accusing them (this is a violation of the 8th commandment). That’s all I ought to say on that for now.
Returning to First Timothy, we all must pray. Paul urges us to pray for all people. It is interesting to me that he urges us to pray for all people whilst specifically mentioning kings and other people in high positions. This message must’ve been exorbitantly important to him then. Donald Trump being president doesn’t demand that you must like him, but as a Christian you must pray for him, for by doing so you are also praying for the well-being of our nation and her citizens. If you hope and pray that he fails, you are hoping and praying for the failure of the nation. Hoping and praying for the failure of the president is to hope and pray for the failure of the nation and her peoples. His failure can never be good for the nation; this is true of any who hold the presidential office. Rather, we should pray for his success, even if we hate his guts. His success can only be good for the nation; it can never be bad.
We are not only to pray for wise governance in the presidential office, but even for the president’s salvation! This even applies to Hillary Clinton. We often look at celebrities and government officials and say to ourselves, “How the heck can you live that way?” Yet we stop there and often never venture to pray for them. God “desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth!” Again, all people! God’s desire is that the wicked should turn from their ways and live in Him (Ezekiel 18:23; 33:11; 2 Peter 3:9). He even desires the wicked Donald Trump—and Hillary Clinton—to turn from their ways and live in Him. And we ought to pray for such a transformation. If we don’t want to say such a prayer, we need to repent of our wicked hearts against these human beings. We forget that every human being has been created in the image of God—Muslims, terrorists, criminals, politicians, presidents, etc. God desires all these people, and more, to know Him.
Prayer and Love for One Another
God does not call us to be like other people. Calling out the hypocrisy of the Pharisees and the rest of the crowd listening to His sermon, Jesus said, “For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same?” (Matthew 5:46-47). He said this right after saying we must love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us.
Jesus called out the tax collectors and Gentiles not because they’re supposedly evil people incapable of salvation like the Pharisees believed, but to make a point to those who viewed them as such. In their eyes, tax collectors and Gentiles were wicked, vile people—they were their enemies. Yet Jesus said they must love and pray for even these people! That was a serious demand for Jesus to make in that culture. To make matters worse for the Pharisees, Jesus says if they don’t love and pray for their enemies, they are no different than those people who do not know God. In other words, you might as well not know God at all if you’re going to act like you’re not part of His people.
This calls for serious self-reflection, especially now. Whether we are Democratic, Republican, Libertarian, independent, or some other third party, how are we treating others of different political affiliations—and Trump—by how we speak and act? Republicans and Democrats view each other as enemies of one another, but I wonder: Do the Christians in both groups bother to stop and pray for their enemies? I doubt it; the evidence is in their actions and language against one another (I, too, am guilty of this, and have thus repented).
If you’re a Democrat, have you prayed for your Republican “enemies”? If you’re a Republican, have you prayed for your Democrat “enemies”? I challenge each of you to pray for them, but do not pray that they conform to your political beliefs. That is no prayer—correction: it is a wicked prayer. Therefore, if you treat those of another party as your adversary and demonise, I challenge you to first of all pray for yourself, particularly: “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me” (Psalm 51:10).
In the eternal scheme of the forgiveness of sins through Jesus Christ our Lord, what is politics? Politics is merely a means by which we govern ourselves utilising our first article reason (see Luther’s explanation on the first article of the Creed). As such, they are necessary insofar as we live in relationship with one another on this side of the eschaton, but this certainly does not mean that we treat differing parties as if they were created in the image of the Devil rather than the image of God. For Republicans, if you’re a Democrat, you’re the devil. For Democrats, if you’re a Republican, you’re the devil. Ironically, both are acting devilish toward one another. Both sides say, “You cannot be a Christian if you support Hillary/Donald Trump.” But I say: Can you truly be a serious Christian if you don’t love and pray for your enemies?
Therefore, Republicans and Democrats, you have heard, “Hate your enemies,” but I tell you, in the words of Jesus Christ, “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matthew 5:44). Furthermore, reconcile yourselves to one another, living in meekness and compassion. Pray for your president; give him the respect and honour owed to him according to his position of authority. If you have a wicked, hardened heart against other parties and President Trump, repent, and pray that God create in you a clean heart.