Perhaps some of our older members can remember a more socially and politically contentious time in our nation’s history. The acrimonious year-long build up to the November election and recent inauguration of President Donald Trump was unlike any of the eleven similar cycles I recall. Christians had seemed quite divided in in their public opinions before the election. These early days after the inauguration indicate strong division in the nation as a whole. There is a mixture of extreme fear and anger with some and a sense of relief and high hopes for others. Hopefully this initial furor will dissipate and there will be opportunity for the new administration to exercise sound leadership. Certainly not everyone will be pleased no matter how the new administration governs. Whatever the case, we should pray fervently for our leaders.
Christians ultimately rest in God’s sovereignty and His providential watch care over all human affairs. If our study of Isaiah has taught us anything, it is about God’s people remaining devoted to Him no matter what the socio-political scene. God has a special love for His Church which compels us, by His grace and power, to be witnesses for His gospel and faithful in obedience to Him. As I have written and stated many times, churches like Redeemer will play an increasingly important role in our nation’s strength and vibrancy. Shaky times should encourage the God’s people to a renewed and steadfast devotion to the ministry of the Word and Sacraments. Certainly those who are well trained in the Word should be all the more involved by applying biblical principles in our social actions and votes but let us not forget where the transforming power lies- the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
The followers of Christ must rise above the political bickering and angry name calling so prevalent in our culture today. Scripture gives us clear guidance on how to navigate difficult social and political waters. The Apostle Peter writing at the time of one of the most despotic Roman emperors in history, gives very helpful instruction-
“Be subject for the Lord's sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme, or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good. For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people. Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God. Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor". - 1 Peter 2:13-17
The part about subjecting ourselves to the governing authorities is obvious enough. We should not miss what else the passage states. Christians are truly a free people. The gospel has liberated us. We are free from the penalty of our sin because of faith in the finished work of Christ. We are also free to obey God by His grace in our lives. By freely doing good as God empowers us, we will silence ignorant and foolish people. We are not an angry or fearful people. We honor God-appointed human authorities but we do not look to them for our joy or sustenance. Whatever social or political climate may be prevailing, we have our clear instructions from God-Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor.