A presidential election is right around the corner. Whatever your political preferences, the Holy Spirit speaks very counter-cultural words about government and how we relate to those who govern in Romans 13:1-2 – “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.” The Christians who first read those words didn’t get to vote on who ruled. The guy in their White House was a morally insane, Christian-persecuting tyrant. Yet Christians were taught to submit to governing authorities. Modern Americans enjoy constitutional rights and protections citizens in many nations do not have. The First Amendment to our Constitution states that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press, or of the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.” The First Amendment permits and protects the right to “peacefully protest.” What it nor any of the other 27 Amendments to the Constitution allow is to use protest as a guise for lawlessness and violence; nor for an individual or a group to decide they are “sovereign” and therefore not subject to the rule of legally and constitutionally established law without working through due process to change that law.
There is much that needs changing in our culture / world. There are unjust and unfair political practices. There are (some) unfair and abusive cops – and there are without doubt a few (relatively speaking) who are racist. Prejudice is still a problem. Poverty is a continual plague. Christians ought to engage in the dialogue and address injustice and unfairness. We ought to speak out and stand against that which is immoral and evil. We must love our neighbor, whatever the color of his and her skin. We ought to “speak evil of no one, to be peaceable, gentle, showing all humility to all men” (Titus 3:2). Christians are urged by God’s Spirit to “Honor all people. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the king” (1 Peter 2:17). Christians must be salt and light in a dark and morally and spiritually rotten world. Sometimes that means protesting. But we must consider carefully how we choose to protest against perceived injustice in any area – moral, political, economic, or social issues. Many Christians believe abortion is wrong – but we don’t honor God or change hearts and minds about abortion if we bomb abortion clinics or shoot doctors who perform them or applaud those who do. There are some bad cops and bad preachers / teachers / coaches / Congress men and women, etc., etc.,etc. But Christ is not honored and human society is not helped by careless, inflammatory rhetoric that suggests one or two or even three bad apples mean the whole barrel is rotten. And how does anybody right a wrong done by a guilty cop by executing an innocent one or slandering all cops as bad?
In the politically charged times in which we live, let us remember words from Abraham Lincoln. When someone expressed to him the hope that God was on the North’s side, Lincoln replied, “My greatest concern is not that God be on our side, but that we be on God’s side.” It might also be good to remember, as one preacher said, when Jesus comes back He won’t be riding an elephant or a donkey. Think about that.