Editor’s Note: This article is part of a series leading up the Super Bowl and the He Gets Us ads showing at the Super Bowl. You can find Super Bowl related outreach resources at our ChurchLeaders partner, Outreach. See https://hegetsus.outreach.com/.
If you’re on social media or are watching the news for more than twelve seconds, you’re sure to spot some sort of rant about a political figure. It has become our habit to mock and insult those authority figures we disagree with. The recent “He Gets Us” campaign captures this well in their recent video called “Outrage.”
While we can (and should) feel strongly about different political and social issues, as Christians we’re called to respond to authority with respect. Rather than bucking the system, sticking it to our leaders, insulting, or despairing, we are taught in the Bible to respond to authority with honor. This starts with honoring God, who holds authority over the whole universe, including every earthly kingdom.
One way we can honor God is in how we respond to those He has put in authority over us. Whether we agree or disagree with them, showing honor and respect is presented in the Bible as a non-negotiable. In showing honor and respect, we also honor and respect God, who, in His own wisdom and for His own purposes, ordains who will lead and who will follow.
Are Government and Politics the Exception?
The Bible also says Christians should honor, respect, pray for and obey authorities in positions of government. This can be challenging for us, especially during heated political seasons. And yet, because politics are so heated, such seasons present Christians with a unique opportunity to live counter-culturally to the typical partisan spin and vitriol.
Biblically, Christians have a civic duty to honor their national, state, and local officials. As long we aren’t being coerced to sin against God, following Jesus includes submitting to and praying for all our public authorities. When this happens, citizens of God’s kingdom stand out as refreshing citizens of earthly kingdoms, no matter who is in charge. This was true in biblical times, and it can be true now.
New Testament Christians were routinely marginalized, persecuted and even put to death by the Roman state. Even in this climate, honoring, respecting, cooperating with and praying for Roman officials was part of being a disciple. Peter, who would later be executed by Rome for his Christian faith, said that in all circumstances, Christians must honor the king (1 Peter 2:17). Paul, who would also be martyred by decree of the Roman Caesar, said every Christian must submit to and pray for governing authorities (Romans 13:1).
In the current moment, it is hard to find Christians who embrace this line of thinking. Instead, many have been drawn into partisan spin and rhetoric. In so doing, these well-intended but misguided Christians have become more like the world than like Jesus.
Here are a few thoughts about how we can retreat from the spin and rhetoric, and instead return to more of a New Testament approach:
1. Don’t Label or Smear; Instead Humble Yourself
Right-leaning folks can easily fall prey to dishonoring our current president. Likewise, left-leaning folks have done the same concerning our last president. The aim in each case is to belittle, embarrass, and caricature leaders we do not like.
Expressing humble concern about the gross character flaws, and some of the policies, of a public leader isn’t always wrong. This is fine and appropriate unless humble concern gives way to name-calling and personal insults. Not even the young man David, when King Saul sought personally to destroy him, fell into this trap. Although David had two opportunities to finish Saul off, he would not assassinate him, either in his person or his character. In his own words, he dared not harm “the Lord’s anointed.”