This article is not going to be about advocacy for Hillary Clinton or President Donald Trump. I have a more important message I hope you take the time to read. You may love me or hate me for it, but please at least have the patience and fortitude to read this.
For that, I want 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 ever since President Trump was elected. In fact, I’m not even sure “tensions” is the right word. It’s outright violent hostility, whether in words or actions.
I don’t care what your political affiliation is, no matter how you look at it, neither Hillary nor President Trump are likable people. President Obama used to be my boss when I was in the Army, and one of the things I learnt from my superiors is that you don’t have to like him as a person, but you certainly have to respect 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 them because of their position and 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.
Speaking on the God given authority of government, Paul wrote, “Pay to all what is owed 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 difficult that must’ve been for Paul to write. Paul wrote this to the Romans during Emperor Nero’s reign, and if you’re familiar with first century Roman history at all, you know about the horrible and absolutely violent persecution he committed against Christians. Yet here Paul wrote to give taxes, respect, and honour to whom they’re owed in government positions, even Nero. 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 the presidential office. Paul is not advocating for quietism here—if human law breaks God’s Law, we must obey God (Acts 5:29)—but there is still some respect and honour to be owed to law enforcement and government positions.
I understand 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 in a healthy way.
In behavioural psychology, there’s a phenomenon called “sublimation.” Sublimation is channeling negative urges into positive, socially acceptable behaviour. For example, a child sublimates unhealthfully when he or she has a temper tantrum when they get grounded for doing something wrong. When an adult doesn’t get selected for a promotion, instead of acting out his or her anger at work, they instead acknowledge the outcome and work harder as a result. Conservatives and liberals yelling at each other on social media is unhealthy sublimation, going on temper tantrums because we didn’t get the president we voted for or because other people don’t have the same opinions as us.
If you’re happy with 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 outcome of the election, stop taking it out on the president’s voters. What good does that accomplish?
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 highly important to him.
You don’t have to like Donald Trump, but as Christians we are called to pray for him. Not only to pray for wise governance, but also for his salvation. Wishing that he fail is a failure to love your neighbour, because if he fails, our nation—and her citizens—will suffer. Praying for his success, whether you like him or not, is a better way to love your neighbour. As Paul says, we are to pray for people in high positions “that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way.” How can we lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way if we demand or pray for his failure? We can’t.
We often look at celebrities and government officials and say to ourselves, “How the heck can you live that way?” Yet we hardly stop to look at ourselves and say, “How the heck can I live this way?” And we 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).
For conservatives, Hillary Clinton is wicked. For liberals, President Trump is wicked. Whether they are truly wicked or not, God desires that even they turn from their ways and live in Him. We ought to pray for such a transformation. We forget that every human being has been created in the image of God—Muslims, terrorists, criminals, politicians, presidents, and so on. God wants all these people, and more, to turn from their wicked ways and know Him.
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 they must love their enemies and pray for those who persecute them.
Jesus called out the tax collectors and Gentiles not because they’re wicked people incapable of redemption, but to make a point to those who viewed them as such. In the eyes of the Pharisees, tax collectors and Gentiles were evil, 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. If they don’t love and pray for their enemies, then they are no different than their supposed enemies! In other words, God has not called us to love only our neighbours who are like us, but especially to love our neighbours who are unlike us.
This calls for serious self-reflection in our own day and age. Whether we are liberal, conservative, or somewhere in between, how are we treating others by how we speak and act? Is it loving or hostile? Are we stopping to pray for our “enemies” on the other side? Are we stopping to pray for our new President—for his success and even his salvation?
It appears to me that everywhere I look on social media, there is always some conservative or some liberal verbally attacking each other (and news reports of liberals physically attacking conservatives). If you’re liberal, conservatives are the evil enemy. If you’re conservative, liberals are the evil enemy. Where is Christ in all this? He is absent, even among those who claim to support certain political policies in His name, which, I would argue, is a violation of the second commandment—misusing the name of God. God did not promise to support your social justice warrior crusade or your right-wing policies. Rather, God promised to be in the Word and Sacraments—He promised to be in the Church.
We need to repent. We need to repent that we have sinned against God and our neighbour in thought, word, and deed. When we sin against our neighbour, we are also sinning against God. And besides praying for the success and salvation of our president, we also need to pray for ourselves. We need to pray that God change our angry, hateful hearts to hearts full of joy—that is, joy in His Word. It is the joy that in His Word, God offers the free forgiveness of sins for you, for me, and even for our self-proclaimed enemies. It might hurt at first to pray for our so called enemies, but it hurts God even more the longer they don’t know Him and the longer we hate each other.