Or…get your heart and mind right for tomorrow.
Tomorrow is January 20, 2017 and Donald J. Trump will be inaugurated as the President of the United States. Governor Mike Pence will be the Vice President of the United States. The country I live in will once again transition power from one sitting president to the next. There will be no civil war. There will be no intervention from the United Nations. There will be no need for a foreign super-power to act as a nation builder. Every time this happens it is an amazing thing to behold.
Many of my friends are excited about the prospects of a Republican presidency. Many of my friends are deeply concerned about a Trump presidency. I am sure that the people of my congregation fall on both sides of this spectrum too.
As the inauguration approaches I want to remind us that as Christians our primary allegiance is to the kingdom of God and this demands us to have perspective.
How should we respond on inauguration day?
1 Timothy 2:1–4 is a good place to start, “First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.”
Our first responsibility on any inauguration day is to understand that we are called to pray for the president and our nation’s leaders. Your position on the incoming president will shape your prayer, and that is good. The key though is to pray. As we pray it drives toward living a life that is peaceful, quiet, godly, and dignified.
This leads me to the second thing that I want to challenge us with. In Romans 12:9–21 Paul gives an exhortation to the church there:
Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.
Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
The church in Rome was diverse. There were Jewish and Gentile believers. They had very different ways of engaging with God. Their social, ethnic, and class identities were distinct from one another. Yet, Paul makes clear that they are to seek to “live in harmony with one another.” He goes on to say, “If possible, so far as it depends on on you, live peaceably with all.”
Does this mean that there should be no debate or correction? Of course not! Paul’s own life and ministry make very clear that these are necessary (read Galatians and 1 Corinthians if you doubt that). He begins by saying, “Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good.” He clearly believes that there is a response to evil and it is to abhor it. Yet, in the midst of this there is the deep value to seek harmony and peace.
We as the church must engage with one another not with the goal of “winning” an argument, but with the desire to build harmony and peace within the church. This does not mean, as some suggest, that we simply ignore or overlook wrong-doing in our leaders or when our brothers and sisters support that wrong-doing. It means, that we seek to speak to truth in grace with love. The telos or goal of the interaction must be peace. If it is not, then we are doing no favors to the church or the world.
Men and women like Dr. Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. challenge the sinful and broken systems of our society. He was non-violent but he stepped in and challenged the powers that be. Why? For the sake of causing division? No. For the sake of bringing peace and harmony.
As you step in to discussions regarding our political leaders, whether to challenge or defend, remember the admonition of Paul from Romans 12.
Finally, I leave you with the words of my dear friend Rev. Pete Scribner who summarizes my thoughts well, “One of the great freedoms and comforts of my faith is the fact that my ultimate joy, security and peace are not tied to who occupies the Oval Office. Therefore, while I have voted in every Presidential election since I turned 18, and I certainly have political convictions, I neither rejoice endlessly nor despair uncontrollably on any inauguration day. Not in 1992, not in 2000, not in 2008. Tomorrow will be no different.”
This is the key, is it not? We must not find our “ultimate joy, security, and peace…tied to who occupies the Oval Office.” If we do, we will struggle to pray for whomever holds that office and we will struggle to pursue peace and harmony within the church.