Honor president and other leadersSo this week we inaugurated President Barack Obama for a second time. I thought his speech was partisan and divisive, particularly for an inaugural address, which generally tend to be more unifying. But then again, I think Obama has demonstrated himself to be partisan and divisive, so I wasn’t exactly taken by surprise.
By: Betsy Hart, Scripps Howard News Service
So this week we inaugurated President Barack Obama for a second time.
I thought his speech was partisan and divisive, particularly for an inaugural address, which generally tend to be more unifying. But then again, I think Obama has demonstrated himself to be partisan and divisive, so I wasn’t exactly taken by surprise.
Sadly, by the way, given one thing he’s terrific on — being by all accounts a wonderful husband and father — he so rarely speaks to the importance of marriage and family. I think that is a real loss.
In any event, what bothers me even more than Obama’s philosophical and ideological failings is how so often so many Christian activists act with despair when it comes to Obama, as if he is a unique avatar for evil in the 20th century. Even worse, they almost seem to think that Obama has to be outside God’s plan for the U.S. because how could he possibly be within it?
I have a feeling we are in for four more years of such laments — and we shouldn’t be.
I can’t answer what God’s purposes are when it comes to Obama, but I can share a few things. One of them is that God is still on his throne in heaven no matter who is in the White House. Proverbs says: “The king’s heart is like a stream of water directed by the Lord; he guides it wherever he pleases.”
In Romans, Paul writes: “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.” And Paul also told the Christians in 1 Timothy, “I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men, for kings and all who are in authority.”
The Roman emperor at the time these latter verses were written? That would be Nero.
These commands certainly do not mean that everything a ruling authority does is good, but that somehow God uses it for the good of his people. Here it’s important to remember that good can come through things like suffering and injustice, or through seeing that every earthly ruler is flawed, in contrast to the rulers of heaven. And good can come in other ways we don’t understand.
But whatever the case, it is important to treat earthly rulers with a level of honor, not for who they are but for the office they hold and because it was instituted by God. To pray for them even as we vehemently oppose them as allowed in a free society. And, yes, sometimes to oppose them as we have to, even when not legally allowed, when our consciences are fundamentally violated.
But no matter what, Christians have got to accept that whoever is being inaugurated in Washington, God remains on his throne. To despair to the extent I often see from Christians around me is to put our trust in earthly rulers, and, ultimately, that’s not appropriate, whether it’s Barack Obama or Ronald Reagan.
Frankly, I haven’t always been so great at all this. So in these coming years, I need to be more conscious of honoring my government, and praying for my leaders that they would move closer to God, but not putting my earthly hope in them.
Seen rightly, these next few years will be good practice. Because I think I’m finally seeing that this will always be my calling, no matter who is in the White House.
Hart is a Scripps Howard News Service columnist.