And he (David) said to his men, “The Lord forbid that I should do this thing to my master, the Lord’s anointed, to stretch out my hand against him, seeing he is the anointed of the Lord.” — 1 Samuel 24:6
If you were around when George W. Bush won the presidential election against Al Gore, you will no doubt remember the Democrats were in an uproar, claiming that the election was stolen. Unlike the 2020 election, the concern wasn’t with election improprieties in various states, video of boxes of ballots being produced in the dead of night or mail-in ballots. It was all about ballots in Florida that had hanging chads. The electoral authorities said that any ballot with the chads still hanging from them could not be counted. For a ballot to be valid, the voter had to punch through the card thoroughly, removing the chad completely. Otherwise, it was reasoned, there could be ballots in which a chad is accidentally loosened on a candidate that the voter was not electing.
The debate eventually made it to the Supreme Court, who ruled in favor of the election authorities in Florida, and thus ensuring the inauguration of George W. Bush as president. The uproar did not cease, even after a counting of the rejected ballots proved that Bush would have won with or without the disqualification of those questionable ballots.
Following his inauguration I noticed something I had not noticed previously. Perhaps it was already there. Perhaps it was new. But I noticed that the press did not refer to him as President Bush. In story after story they referred to him as Mr. Bush or as just Bush. But the lack of his title as President Bush seemed glaring and intentional. I did not go back to research whether in fact this was new, but it seemed to me like a political statement, a dishonoring of him as president. It was among the first declarations of “not my president.” They did not want to acknowledge that his presidency was legitimate, that the title was indeed his.
Since then, we’ve heard that cry repeatedly.
“He’s not MY president!” many conservatives railed against President Obama. “He’s not MY president!” the liberals screamed against President Trump. And now it’s President Biden’s turn to sit on the hot seat of the dunking booth as angry mobs hurl insults and accusations and indignation. Not. My. President. Not that these slogans will ever hit the plate with enough force to dunk him. Nonetheless, it seems the disrespect must be voiced.
Was the 2020 election stolen? There’s supposedly a lot of evidence that suggests it was, though every attempt to bring such evidence to light in a courtroom was repeatedly shot down on procedural grounds. The courts did not examine the evidence and find it wanting. They refused to allow the evidence to even be presented. So perhaps the election was stolen. Perhaps it was not.
This reminds me of baseball games in which the umpire makes a questionable call. Was he safe or out? Was it a ball or a strike? Inevitably calls will be made that are either questionable or unquestionably wrong. When that happens fans of the winning team shrug their shoulders and say, “That’s the way it goes sometimes. It’s part of the sport,” and relish their win, however undeserved it might be. The other team, meanwhile, grouses endlessly about how they were robbed. Their protests stand in stark contrast to their silence from the week before when their team benefited from a bad call.
Perhaps Joe Biden would not be president if things were done legally and fairly. Perhaps he would. Should it really make a difference in how we as Christians treat him? How should we relate to Joe Biden since he occupies the White House? Should we grumble about his undeserved victory? Should we declare “not my president” in our love of truth and our defiance of all things unholy? Or should we be honoring him as our president?
1 Peter 2:17 says, “Honor all, love the brotherhood, fear God, honor the king.” No, we do not have a king. But does anyone doubt that the principle applies to a president as well as to a king? Just a few verses before this we are told to “submit to every ordinance of man, whether to the king as supreme or to governors as those sent by him to punish evil-doers and for the praise of those who do good.” Another oft-quoted passage on submitting to government is found in Romans 13, which begins with a command to
…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… — Romans 13:1,2
So whether he was elected fairly or not, whether the election was fair or stolen, God was still at the heart of it, appointing Joe Biden the candidate to become President Joe Biden. I won’t attempt to wrestle now with such questions as why God would appoint someone who didn’t win the election fairly. In His sovereignty He could have stopped it, but He’s not in the business of throwing His sovereignty around like that. If He was, there would be no more rape, murder, abuse or other sin. But evil will continue to run amuck as God waits patiently for the last Christian to accept Christ. Then comes Judgment Day.
Imagine standing before the judgment seat of Christ and discovering God had been paying attention to every bitter verbal barrage you launched against your favorite president-to-hate, and God was angry each time for you bad mouthed His appointee! Jesus did say, after all, that whatever we do “to least of these” we do to Him and that we would be judged for “every idle word” that comes out of our mouths!
Joe Biden is my president. Before him Donald Trump was my president. Before him Barack Obama, George W Bush, Bill Clinton, George H Bush, Ronald Reagan, Gerald Ford and Richard Nixon. Yes, I’m that old!
Does this mean I agreed with the policies of each of these presidents? Certainly not. Does it mean I liked them as individuals? To be honest, no. But it does mean that they were granted the responsibilities of the White House, and I owed each of them the honor that goes with that office. Even if they didn’t deserve it.
Consider Bill Clinton. He himself treated the Oval Office dishonorably, using it as a place to violate his marriage covenant. But just because he treated it dishonorably doesn’t mean I get to treat him so. Even after King Saul soiled the office of king by disobeying God, even after God had the prophet Samuel anoint David to replace Saul, even after Saul tried repeatedly to murder David in cold blood, David refused to take advantage of a risk-free opportunity to remove him from office and his head from his shoulders. David said, “I will not lift my hand against the Lord’s anointed.” As far as David was concerned, it was God who put Saul in office so it would have to be God who removed him. So too, the president of the United States.
“Then He will answer them, saying, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, in as much as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.’” — Matthew 25:45
Don’t you think of that president you dislike as “the least”? He’s the least qualified, the least honorable, the least intelligent, the least deserving… Whether you are thinking of Trump or Biden or any other president, if you were at all engaged in the political process you probably had such feelings toward one of them!
But Roman 13 tells us that God, for whatever sovereign reason, allowed them to hold the office. So by verse 7 it says:
Render therefore to all their due: taxes to whom taxes are due, customs to whom customs, fear to whom fear, honor to whom honor. — Romans 13:7
Scripture after scripture tell us to give people honor and respect, but nearly all of those verses and passages command us to do so without qualifying whom we are to honor. In other words, we are to give honor to everyone, the honorable and the dishonorable just as God sends the rain upon the just and the unjust. So the president doesn’t have to earn or deserve that honor any more than a Levite had to earn the right to serve as a worker in the Temple. It was a role dictated by God.
When a police officer pulls me over, I give him respect because he is in the office of law enforcement. I know that his badge represents authority, his gun represents power, his handcuffs represent consequences for how I treat him. I owe him that respect, even if he hasn’t deserved it. I once lied to a police officer when he asked, “Do you know how fast you were going?” In that moment, I panicked and did not want to admit that I was going 5 mph over the limit. So instead of saying 45 mph I said, “No, I don’t.” He then gave me a ticket for going 10 mph over! Hahaha, I deserved it for not being honest. But despite my little lie, I spoke very respectfully. And he acknowledged that as he handed me the ticket and told me that my respect inspired him to refrain from noting on the ticket that I was speeding in a double-fine zone!
When I interact with or speak about my wife, I give her respect because she is in the office of wife. She really deserves double honor in my books just for being willing to marry me and put up with me for so many years. But whether she has done anything to deserve it or not, I owe her that honor. Peter actually tells us husbands to “give honor to the wife” in two separate but inseparable ways. Honoring my wife is my privilege, whether she deserves it at any given time or not.
Husbands, likewise, dwell with them with understanding, giving honor to the wife, as to the weaker vessel, and as being heirs together of the grace of life, that your prayers may not be hindered. — 1 Peter 3:7
I give the stranger respect because he is made in the image of God. Who am I to withhold honor or respect from anyone? I should speak to, and of, people as I would speak to and of God — not that I am to worship them but that I am to humbly hold them in higher esteem than I hold myself.
But no man can tame the tongue. It is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our God and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the similitude of God. Out of the same mouth proceed blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be so. — James 3:8-10
Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. — Philippians 2:3
So if am to honor everyone, I will honor my president. I will pray for him. I will root for him. I will “restrain my tongue from evil and my lips from speaking deceit” no matter how much I may disagree with him on a particular issue, behavior or action. Does that mean I will not speak out against evil or folly if it is done by the president? No. It does not mean that. But it means that I will guard my heart and my tongue so that my words are spoken out of love, not hate. I will point out the difference between light and darkness, good and evil, wisdom and foolishness. But I will do so to instruct, to enlighten, to encourage, to comfort — not to belittle, to mock or to disrespect.
This is a tall order! It is so easy to get angry at the words and actions of those in power. It’s so easy to let that anger develop into bitterness and bitterness into hate. No wonder the scriptures tell us to put away from us all anger.
Dear Lord, help me! This is so easier to write than to live out! Let Your Spirit bring us daily grace to empower us so that we may honor You in the way we think, speak and act.