“He’s not my president.”
The posts I saw on social media last week were the same ones I saw four years ago, only this time it was my Republican friends posting them. The logic went like this: “Let’s treat the other side the way they treated us four years ago. That’ll show them.”
And so, before President-elect Biden has even had a chance to move his things into the White House—even before he’s made one policy decision—a large portion of the country he’s been elected to lead has already decided not to give him a chance based solely on the fact that he plays for the wrong political team.
Never mind that his message thus far has been about healing and unifying the nation. Never mind that we still don’t know what kind of policy agenda he will ultimately pursue. The basis for our preliminary rejection of Biden’s presidency sounds eerily similar to how my children used to respond when asked why they were mistreating one another, “He did it first!”
As a believer in Christ, I have to make an important distinction here. I don’t expect the world to see reality the way I do. I don’t expect the love of Christ to reign over the hearts of people who do not follow Christ. Paul makes this distinction in 1 Corinthians 5:11-13, where he asks, “For what have I to do with judging outsiders?” He realizes that Christians have an obligation to one another that we do not share with those outside the church.
As Christians, we have been forgiven in Christ. We, of all people, know what it means to have all of our wrongs completely absorbed and forgotten by the God who loves us in spite of our refusal to love him. The Son of God died for the people who crucified him. We have encountered the most radical expression of raw love imaginable. We have been reconciled to God.
We have also been given the Scriptures and the Holy Spirit to guide us and to transform us into people who love like Jesus. As Peter says, we’ve been given “all things that pertain to life and godliness” though the knowledge of Christ (2 Peter 1:3). We have also been given the gift of the church to keep us accountable to living the kind of life that represents Christ’s Kingdom on earth.
For Christians, the way we respond to disappointments in life, even the disappointment of our preferred side not winning an election, should look differently. President Trump’s refusal to concede the election does not provide the necessary script for our response. His eagerness to insult and slander his opponents on Twitter should not set the tone for our discourse. We do not look to President Trump or President-elect Biden as our example for how to live life. We look to Christ alone.
And what do we find when we look to Christ? “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34). “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, ‘Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 5:43-45). We respond to hate with love. We respond to enemies with prayer.
Why? Because that’s how our Father responds to us. And because of his love, we can respond to political disappointment without losing any semblance of our eternal hope.
Consider this: There has never been a political party or a president who represented the purposes of God on this earth. Reagan didn’t. Trump didn’t. Biden won’t.
Nevertheless, the New Testament calls Christians to submit to earthly governments (Romans 13:1) and to pray for governing authorities (1 Timothy 2:1-2). The emperors that Paul had in mind when he wrote those words were not leaders that any sane Christian would have voted for. They were oppressive and often persecuted Christians. Yet, Paul believed that refusing to submit to their policies and wishing failure upon them were not actions that represented the Kingdom of Christ. That hasn’t changed.
There are legitimate reasons to oppose an earthly government. Whenever any government interferes with the church’s freedom to pursue the agenda that our Divine King has mandated, resistance is our only option. That difficult choice has faced Christians in every age. However, if we waste our voices on partisan spats, we won’t have it when the real time for resistance comes.
Let’s pray for President-elect Biden and hope for justice, peace, and prosperity for all the citizens of our nation during his tenure.