Among professing Christians, there has been a great deal of interpretation regarding the election of Barack Obama to President of the United States of America. I have heard personally the following four attitudes expressed. 1) Obama’s election is God’s judgment on America. 2) America will be judged because we let Obama be elected President. 3) I am scared of where our country is going and what this means for the Church. 4) Obama is the right man for the job, and the nation is headed in a great direction. I am sure of neither the value of the “Religious Right,” nor what to make of the election of Barack Obama (other than that it is at least a great historical moment). What I am sure about is that I do not need to fear. I should not be angry. And, I should not rest with Obama, or anyone but Christ, as my hope for the future or joy in the present. Here are some verses that help give us the proper perspective.
1. Matthew 10.28 ”And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell” (ESV). The worst any man or woman could do is torture and kill us. Undoubtedly, that would be horrible, but surely, we can have enough confidence in our God that we can face even that by His grace. God saw Paul and many others through much more than we seem likely to face, at least in the United States. We must remember that our suffering in no way implies that the gospel has failed. The goal of the gospel is not our personal comfort and pleasure in this life, but God’s glory through the eternal security of His people in Jesus Christ in the life to come. Living in fear of man is the opposite of living in light of the glorious promises of a hope and a future in Jesus Christ.
2. 1 Peter 1.17-21 “And if you call on him as Father who judges impartially according to each one’s deeds, conduct yourselves with fear throughout the time of your exile, knowing that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot. He was foreknown before the foundation of the world but was made manifest in the last times for the sake of you who through him are believers in God, who raised him from the dead and gave him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God” (ESV). No man or woman should be our hope. Barack Obama should not be our hope, and this has nothing to do with his religious conviction, party affiliation, or political positions. He should not be our hope because he (despite what an absolutely ridiculous campaign add may have implied) is not the Messiah. Barack Obama could end up being the most incredible political leader in history. He could lead every nation to peace and every human to compassion for his fellow man, but his influence and authority would still be temporally bound. Even if Obama did achieve his greatest ambitions, he could still provide no eternal hope to a single person. That is no slam on Obama; it is a statement of his humanity. Peter, of course, is right. We should conduct ourselves with fear in the time of our exile, (i.e. we should live as strangers here) with our hope set on Christ and the future He has established for His people.
3. Romans 13.1-7 “Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer. Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God’s wrath but also for the sake of conscience. For because of this you also pay taxes, for the authorities are ministers of God, attending to this very thing. 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, honor to whom honor is owed” (ESV). 1 Peter 2.13-17 ”Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme, or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good. For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people. Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God. Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor” (ESV). I think the “Religious Right” needs to stop and ask, “Would God be more in control if McCain had won? What about Mike Huckabee? What about Billy Graham?” There has been a lot said over the lasts few days that has made me question our conviction regarding Romans 13 and the sovereignty of God in general. “How did ‘we’ let this happen?” God ordained that Barack Obama win the 2008 election and commanded His people to honor those in high positions. We can trust God’s good, pleasing, and perfect will!
4. 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 Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (ESV). We must be humble enough to bow and pray for those in high positions. This is our Christian duty.
In short, no civic election is either the end of the this world or the beginning of a new one. We need not fear any man in any position, but hope in Christ alone. We must not hope in any man in any position, but hope in Christ alone. Submit to the authorities. Fear God. Honor the President. Pray for our officials.