History was made Tuesday night
History was made Tuesday night, when Barack Obama was declared the winner of the Democratic presidential primaries, thus becoming the first African American to be nominated for President of the United States by a major political party. And given the painful history of race relations in this country, Americans of all parties, races and faiths surely hope this is a harbinger of better days to come.
Which, of course, is not to suggest that the five month electoral journey to November 4 that Obama and John McCain now begin will be a love-fest of political or national unity. Being the earthy reality that it is, it is unlikely the American political process will become a model of decorum and civility.
The question is: How should we who are followers of Jesus Christ relate to the politics and political processes of this electoral season? Surprisingly enough, Romans 13 offers three still relevant guiding principles for the citizens of any nation on earth, all of which are pertinent for the presidential election ahead.
First of all, Paul declares that human governments practice a derived authority from God himself. “Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God” (Romans 13:1 NIV). I.e., followers of Christ are also citizens of earth, and as such we are under obligation to live peacefully under governmental authority.
Secondly, Paul admonishes: “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 NKJV). And that counsel certainly would include “votes to whom votes are due.” Following Christ neither prevents nor precludes the Christian’s obligation to participate in the electoral process of the land. Both our taxes and our votes are due to Caesar, and we must render them.
And how shall we render our participation in the political process? Romans 13’s third principle is pertinent. “Love does no harm to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law” (Romans 13:10 NKJV). Like every other campaign, this one is sure to be infused with heated rhetoric, angry rebuttals, and uncivil recriminations—and all of that from the supporters of the candidates! The follower of Christ lives by a higher standard. Irrespective of our political persuasions, we must live out Jesus’ self-sacrificing, others-deferring love and compassion. “He must increase; I must decrease” is a doomed political mantra, but it is the quintessence of selflessness. Through the followers of Christ love can triumph over the most political of processes and mean-spirited of campaigns.
In this season of uncertain history, let us model Christ’s love for all in the face of divisiveness, his abiding humility in the face of ego and rancor, and his peaceful trust in the One who sits above all political processes. And let us pray his prayer, “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” Amen.