Editor's note: Rev. R. Chris Reynolds is a new voice on these pages, joining our longtime faith-and-values commentator, Jim Bell. You will see Rev. Reynolds' thoughts over the next two weeks. Please let us know what you think.
Barack Obama ran his presidential campaign promising change for America. Will he be able to deliver as he intended? Honestly, only time will tell. However, there is no doubt his election has brought change to our nation. For the first time in our history, we have elected an African American as president.
Barack Obama is not only representing a different party than the current administration, but an entirely different philosophy. For some, that is promising. For others, it is not. Regardless of personal views, he is the president-elect and will take office on Jan. 20. He deserves our support and loyalty. As a Christian, my responsibility is even greater than national pride or patriotism. It is a call to obey the teaching of scripture and to submit to the command of my God.
What is the responsibility of Christians concerning our president and other elected officials? The Bible is very clear on our duty as Christ's followers, as it pertains to those who are "over us." It must be pointed out that the Biblical truths apply to every believer, regardless of political affiliation or personal views.
The apostle Paul, writing to the early Christians in Rome, wrote these words: "Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God. Therefore, whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will bring judgment on themselves ...Therefore you must be subject, not only because of wrath but also for conscience's sake ... For because of this you also pay taxes, for they are God's ministers attending continually to this very thing. Render therefore to all their due ..."
Paul is not writing this to a group of people who are jubilant with the authority that is in power. He is not writing to people who have the privilege to vote. In fact, he is writing to a persecuted people who are being killed and publicly humiliated for their faith in Christ. Yet, despite these horrendous actions that are being carried out, Paul says to submit to your leader, because "there is no authority except from God."
What if I do not have the same social, environmental, political, or even theological convictions as the authority that is over me? Am I excused from my Christian duty? Again, let's allow scripture to instruct us. I Samuel 24 is the account of Saul pursuing David in order to kill him. But shortly into the quest, Saul unknowingly puts himself into a vulnerable position, where David could have killed him. Instead of seizing this opportunity for relief and vindication, David chooses not to harm his leader, because Saul, as the king, is the Lord's anointed.
I Samuel 24:6-7 records for us David's words: "And he said to his men, 'The Lord forbid that I should do this thing to my master, the Lord's anointed, to stretch out my hand against him, seeing he is the anointed of the Lord.' So David restrained his servants with these words, and did not allow them to rise against Saul. And Saul got up from the cave and went on his way."
I am in no way trying to equate the election of Barack Obama as our 44th president to the authorities of the Roman Empire, or the reign of King Saul. That would be absurd. My purpose is simply to point out Paul's teaching that says give allegiance to those God has established as the leader.
Paul not only teaches us to submit to our leaders, but that we should also pray for our leaders. He writes in I Timothy 2:1-4: "Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men, for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth."
What specific prayer should we offer on behalf of our new president? We must pray for his wife, his children, and his administration. We must pray for our president, because he faces some daunting challenges with the economy, national security, and the Middle East. We must pray for his protection, his policy goals, and his daily proposals. We must pray that our president-elect will surround himself with men and women of integrity, who understand the times and know what to do.
As a Christian, my marching orders are clear, I am to pray for the leader of my nation. I am to be subject to his leadership. I am to obey him as long as he does not ask me to disobey the teaching of scripture.
Rev. R. Chris Reynolds is pastor of Mt. Zion Baptist Church and Christian Academy in Jonesboro.