Before You Criticize the President

by Nathan Busenitz


It is an inescapable topic these days. From recent Supreme Court decisions to America’s economic uncertainty to U.S. foreign policy, political issues are on everyone’s mind. The fact that this year is an election year only heightens the intensity of an already-charged discussion.

Few topics are more heated than politics, and the emotions evoked often present a temptation to sin. Anger and hatred; grumbling and complaining; gossip and slander; insubordination and rebellion; anxiety and worry — these are just some of the wrong responses that can arise whenever the conversation takes a political turn.

As Americans, our right to free speech makes it all-to-easy to criticize and decry any public figure or policy we don’t like. But as believers, we have a God-given obligation toward those who are in authority over us.

The following excerpt is from John MacArthur’s chapter on “God, Government, and the Gospel” in Right Thinking in a World Gone Wrong (Harvest House, 2009). It is a helpful reminder for us, especially during a politically-charged election season.

“In addition to submitting to the laws of our land, we are commanded to pray for those in authority over us. Even those whom we consider political “opponents” are to receive our prayers on their behalf. It was during Nero’s reign that Paul told 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” (1 Tim. 2:1–2). Paul prayed for the very king who would eventually authorize his execution. And he instructed Timothy to do the same.

The apostle Paul continues by delineating two aspects of a Christian’s prayer for government authorities. First, believers should pray for those in authority over them “so that you  may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity” (v. 2). An immediate by-product of praying for our leaders is that it removes thoughts of rebellion, resistance, or anger towards them. It prompts us to be peacemakers, not reactionaries; to lead lives that are tranquil, quiet, godly, and dignified. As Paul told Titus: “Remind them to be subject to rulers, to authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good deed, to malign no one, to be peaceable, gentle, showing every consideration for all men” (Titus 3:1–2). When our leaders do something we don’t like, our first response should be to pray, not protest.

Second, Christians should pray for the salvation of their leaders. Speaking of such prayers, Paul writes, “This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself as a ransom for all, the testimony given at the proper time. . . . Therefore I want the men in every place to pray, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and dissension” (1 Tim. 2:3–68).

Praying for the salvation of our leaders is good in the sight of God. The salvation of souls is in keeping with God’s gracious nature and His sovereign purposes; it is the reason Christ died on the cross. When we pray for our nation, we must not limit our prayers to policy decisions and other temporal issues. We must also pray for the souls of those in government and civil service, that by God’s grace they might be saved through faith in Christ.

One final point in this regard comes from Paul’s use of the word “thanksgivings” in verse 1. Thanks to the freedom of speech that we enjoy, Americans love to openly criticize our government — from court decisions and elected officials to police officers and IRS agents. But the attitude that Paul expresses here is one of thanksgiving, not bitterness or resentment. We must remember that God is the one who appoints those in positions of authority (Rom. 13:1). To complain about them is ultimately to complain against God””

-Nathan Busenitz

Do We Dare Defend Our Rights?

Awesome post from Collin Hansen on the Christian and political involvement. Very timely as we see politics dominating the American public forum as we approach the fall elections. Full post here:

Here’s an excerpt:

“…Those of us who live in democracies give thanks that we can be involved in the political process and shape policies out of love for our neighbors.

But we seem to be fighting a losing cause of late, at least in theUnited States. Our vision for the common good is being eclipsed by a new order that seems not to understand Western culture’s debt to the Christian vision for humanity.

Contrary to appearances, this new vision does not support a “live and let live” ethic. Religion continues its centuries-long retreat into the private sphere. Christians replace gays in the closet. Our future feels tenuous, so we appeal to help from the state. But we haven’t yet determined if the state is friend or foe.

“For democracies, like all governments, are based on affirming and supporting certain values and visions of reality, and proscribing others,” D. A. Carson writes in his new bookThe Intolerance of Tolerance. “But when the values and visions of reality that sustained such democracies in the past shrivel away, in the domains where the shriveling takes place the only über-value is the new tolerance, backed up by the coercive power of the state.”

We may have only a few reasons for optimism about the difference we can make in coming days. But neither should we fall prey to faithless pessimism. Though embattled, thousands of evangelical churches thrive across the country. We can learn from the example of congregations worldwide that maintain a vigorous witness where Christian rights have been restricted most severely.

Or we can look back to the body of beleaguered believers encouraged thus by the apostle Peter: “Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation” (1 Peter 2:12).

Though slandered and scattered, these believers trusted that God would glorify himself among unbelievers through their good deeds and patient endurance. That’s the ethic captured in The Gospel Coalition’s Theological Vision for Ministry. Notably, this document says nothing about our rights. But it does hold out hope for significant cultural influence if we seek service rather than power. And it warns, “But if we seek direct power and social control, we will, ironically, be assimilated into the very idolatries of wealth, status, and power we seek to change.”

We dare not defend our rights if this defense assimilates us into the culture of ressentiment [sic]. State-sanctioned persecution would be a better fate.

But there is a better way, laid out by Carsonat the end of The Intolerance of Tolerance. Let us practice civility toward our neighbors, believers or not. Preach the gospel and watch seeds of faith sprout. Be prepared to suffer—“For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places” (Eph. 6:12).

All the while, trust and delight in God. No one can snatch your joy from the Father’s hand. But you can squander divine delight and squelch the witness of the Spirit by fighting for your rights while forgetting the sovereign Creator who endows them.”

-Collin Hansen, 03-01-2012