Sunday, November 9, 2008

Election Reflection

We elected a new president last week. We did not elect the man I voted for, but I was not at all surprised that he won. Leading up to election day, everything I'd heard on Jay Sekulow Live, which is a Christian call-in talk show that deals with a lot of legal issues (and my main source for most things political), made it sound like the Christians who would be voting were voting for McCain/Palin but thought that Obama/Biden would win. Obama did a fantastic job of motivating people to vote, and often people will vote for the one who motivates them because they feel a little sense of obligation.

There's no doubt that this was a historic election for our country. We had a white man and a white woman (had that ticket won, she would have been the first female vice president) running against a black man and a white man (that ticket won; we will now have our first black president). I as a young white female cannot understand all the implications of this, but I know that it is huge. It was still in my grandparents' lifetime that we horribly mistreated black people, and I know that that fact alone motivated a number of elderly people to vote who would not normally have voted.

I was not happy about the outcome of the election, but I wasn't entirely surprised, either. I had been praying that the McCain/Palin ticket would win, but honestly I didn't think that request would be granted (in other words, had I been praying for rain, I wouldn't have carried my umbrella—that's how little faith I had).

Yesterday, I was talking with Nancy, a friend's mom; she'd obviously done a lot of thinking and praying about the issues, and she no doubt knows what matters. I asked her what she'd been thinking, and she nearly echoed what I'd told my aunt the night before when Renee had asked me the same thing: As believers, we are called to pray for the person who is in authority over us. We might not agree with them (and if what they tell us goes against what God says in the Bible, we need not obey them), but we must still pray for them and respect them as our leaders. Romans 13:1–7 deals with this issue:
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. For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to evil. Do you want to be unafraid of the authority? Do what is good, and you will have praise from the same. For he is God's minister to you for good. But if you do evil, be afraid; for he does not bear the sword in vain; for he is God's minister, an avenger to execute wrath on him who practices evil. Therefore you must be subject, not only because of wrath but also for conscience' 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: taxes to whom taxes are due, customs to whom customs, fear to whom fear, honor to whom honor.
1 Peter 2:13–17 expands on Paul's charge in Romans:
Therefore submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord's sake, whether to the king as supreme, or to governors, as to those who are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and for the praise of those who do good. For this is the will of God, that by doing good you may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men—as free, yet not using liberty as a cloak for vice, but as bondservants of God. Honor all people. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the king.
These are not the only places in the Bible we are told to obey our leaders, but they are some of the most explicit passages. For instance, when Jesus is questioned by the Jews about whether they are required to pay taxes, He responds, "Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's." (Matthew 22:21)

In light of these verses and more, we are still called to pray for the current and incoming presidential administrations. I didn't need this reminder; I will continue praying for these leaders. But the new perspective that Nancy shared was this: We'd been praying for the McCain/Palin ticket to win, but other Christians had been praying for the Obama/Biden ticket to win. So God did (and does, and will, and always has) answer prayers (He answered ours, but with the opposite response we were requesting). As I previously mentioned, this is huge for our country. Hopefully it will unite us, help eliminate (or at least minimize) discrimination and racial prejudice, and cause us to turn to God as a country.

God still has everything under control. It would be foolish for us to think otherwise. He might decide to punish us, or He might decide to bless us. Whatever He does, we must follow in obedience and honor our leaders and pray for them. Who can say that this will not be a huge turning point for our country? Who knows whether the gravity of the role of president will cause Obama to give his life to the Lord? Who can tell who the leaders that he chooses to appoint to serve with him will be?

Isaiah 55:8-9 captures another recurring theme throughout the Bible: "'For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways,' says the Lord. 'For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts.'" He continues with this amazing promise (vs. 10–13):
For as the rain comes down, and the snow from heaven, and do not return there, but water the earth, and make it bring forth and bud, that it may give seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth; it shall not return to me void, but it shall accomplish what I please, and it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it.

For you shall go out with joy, and be led out with peace; the mountains and the hills shall break forth into singing before you, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands. Instead of the thorn shall come up the cypress tree, and instead of the brier shall come up the myrtle tree; and it shall be to the Lord for a name, for an everlasting sign that shall not be cut off.
His call for us is to obey Him whether we agree with others or not. His command is for us to pray for our leaders whether we approve of their decisions or not. His mandate is that we subject to them or endure the punishment we would deserve. And we can't forget to pray for those our incoming president will choose to rule with him. For "where there is no counsel, the people fall; but in the multitude of counselors there is safety" (Proverbs 11:14); "He who walks with wise men will be wise, but the companion of fools will be destroyed" (Prov. 13:20); "Without counsel, plans go awry, but in the multitude of counselors they are established" (Prov. 15:22); "Plans are established by counsel; by wise counsel wage war" (Prov. 20:18); and "For by wise counsel you will wage your own war, and in the multitude of counselors there is safety" (Proverbs 24:6).

Not only should we apply these to those who are in authority over us, we must also remember to apply them to our own lives as we strive to obey, honor, and glorify the Lord. Psalm 1:1–6 reminds us of this:
Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stands in the path of sinners, nor sits in the seat of the scornful; but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and in His law he meditates day and night. He shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that brings forth its fruit in its season, whose leaf also shell not wither; and whatever he does shall prosper.

The ungodly are not so, but are like the chaff which the wind drives away. Therefore the ungodly shall not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous.

For the Lord knows the way of the righteous, but the way of the ungodly shall perish.
One more passage, this one from Ecclesiastes 9:16–18:
Then I said: "Wisdom is better than strength. Nevertheless the poor man's wisdom is despised, and his words are not heard. Words of the wise, spoken quietly, should be heard rather than the shout of a ruler of fools. Wisdom is better than weapons of war; but one sinner destroys much good."

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