I refused to support Donald Trump in the primaries and in the general election. I was sure he was the wrong person for the job. (For clarification: I was equally certain that Hillary Clinton was the wrong person.) So what should I do now that Mr. Trump is President-elect Trump? I should support him.
Don’t get me wrong. The election did nothing to change my mind. I still think he is the wrong person to sit in the oval office. The support I am ready to offer is not contingent upon any change of mind Mr. Trump might make or change of policy he might institute. It is based on my responsibilities both as a citizen of this country and as a disciple of Jesus. Had Mrs. Clinton been elected instead of Mr. Trump, I would do the same thing.
The fact is, I did the same thing when Mr. Obama was elected in 2008. Though I was impressed with the man, I was not impressed with some of his policies, and voted for his opponent. But when he was elected, I gave him my support and publicly encouraged others to do the same.
It would be a mistake, however, to confuse giving support with giving approval. Over the last eight years, I have both supported the president and objected to his policies. Support does not imply turning a blind eye to wrongs and injustices. That is not support at all; it is partisanship.
I intend to show Mr. Trump the same support I’ve shown President Obama, and would have shown Secretary Clinton, had she been elected. Furthermore, I think it is incumbent upon every Christian to do the same. In fact, I think it is a rejection of biblical teaching to do otherwise.
St. Paul ministered and wrote during the reigns of at least two Roman emperors, Claudius and Nero. It was during the reign of the latter, who was infamous for his hostility to Christians, that the apostle wrote, “I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone—for kings and all those in authority,..” Paul urged Christians to pray for the very emperor who provoked anti-Christian sentiment, sanctioned persecution and eventually (either directly or indirectly) ordered the apostle’s execution.
Prayer is a big part of the support Christians are required to give their nation’s leaders, but it is not all. St. Peter, who may also have been martyred during Nero’s reign, told his fellow Christians to submit themselves “for the Lord’s sake … to the king, as the supreme authority.” Likewise, St. Paul wrote, “Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities…”
This submission is not docility or mindless obedience. It helps where it can, by prayer and by compliance and, sometimes, even by prophetic rebuke. It is possible to submit and speak one’s mind at the same time, for submission is not silence. There is a long history in the biblical faiths of speaking inconvenient truths to national leaders in the name of God and for the sake of people.
Biblical submission is thorough-going but it is not unconditional. It is conceivable that situations could arise in which Christians must respectfully refuse to comply with governmental rulings. When the authorities arrested the apostles Peter and John and placed them under a gag order, the apostles refused to obey. They said, “Judge for yourselves whether it is right in God’s sight to obey you rather than God. For we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard.” When obedience to the civil authorities requires disobedience to God, civil disobedience is not only permitted, it is required.
Another way Christians provide support to the governing authorities is by treating them with respect. I have sometimes been horrified by the disrespect and contempt self-identified followers of Jesus have shown President Obama. St. Peter commands Christians to “honor the king.” We don’t have a king, but the principle applies. Disrespect and contempt are never appropriate from a Christian, not toward a Democrat or a Republican, a president or a child. It is simply not the way of Christ.
First published in The Coldwater Daily Reporter, 11/19/2016