During the dark days of the US Civil War, Abraham Lincoln made the comment that he “didn’t care so much that God is on our side, but that we are on the side of God.” Ah, the humble rhetoric of Presidents past…
A few weeks ago, a good friend pointed out a comment made by Whitehouse Press Secretary Sarah Sanders in which she told interviewers at the Christian Broadcasting Network that “God wanted Donald Trump to be President.” (Predictably, the mainstream media had taken it wildly out of context, not pulling any punches when it came time to ridicule.)
To the believer, divine intervention of an election is totally plausible. The Bible is full of stories of God delivering His followers from seemingly inescapable situations: Daniel in the den of lions, the Egyptian Exodus, the “siege” at Jericho, King David’s battles (especially with Goliath). Believers are accustomed to seeing God do some amazing things, especially when all hope seems lost. (See my last post for a real-life example.) And so even when nearly every poll – and a model that was “never wrong” – guaranteed one outcome, God bringing about a different ending doesn’t seem so far-fetched. (Don’t worry, I don’t believe that God manipulated the tally system for vote counting – His style is more to move the hearts of people, like in supporting disaster relief.)
To the nonbeliever, these claims seem absolutely absurd, and not just on the basis of undercutting the obvious cause-and-effect of people voting. There’s a whole lot of people who look at the worst of Trump’s rhetoric and conclude that either 1.) he’s not a Christian, or 2.) Christians are assholes. And it’s tough to argue with their logic. Even if you ignore the media hyperbole of what he says, Trump’s personal actions regarding money and women make it hard to accept him as a beacon of Christianity. And if that’s the case, why would God move proverbial mountains to get him into the Presidency? Seems contradictory, right? And if He “wanted” Trump to be President, how did He feel about Obama? Or W, Clinton, HW, Reagan, Carter, or Ford? Nixon?!?! Was He silent on the bad ones and vocal on the good ones? Which men were which?
I’m not judging whether Trump is a Christian or not. If he acknowledges Jesus as his savior and repents of any sins, he’s a Christian. And that dialog is between him and God alone.
Both sides of the argument can make a reasonable case, consistent with plenty of their own precedent.
My conclusion: who cares?
First, the kingdom I (and other Christians) serve isn’t constrained by this world. Tyrants and terrorists come and go with no lasting effect. In practice, they can only expedite the inevitable and make it less comfortable. Fatalistic as it may sound, though we take different roads, we all get to Death eventually. Even a lifetime of torment can be immediately forgotten when viewed through the lens of eternity. People lose sight of this all the time.
Second, major institutions, like the US government, were raised by God. Not my opinion, not Sarah Sanders’s opinion. God’s word. Check out Romans 13:1: “Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God.” As Christians, we’re supposed to respect their authority and obey their laws, even if we disagree with them. (Remember when Jesus was asked if it was right to pay financial tribute to Rome or to give the money to the poor? He responded by saying “give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar, and give to God what belongs to God.” Matthew 22: 15-22)
The only exception is when the laws of these institutions violate God’s laws. In that case, as Peter and John explained to the Jewish rulers, elders, and teachers of the law, “Which is right in God’s eyes: to listen to [man], or to Him? You be the judges!” (Acts 4:19)
Still not convinced? Try Hebrews 13:17: “Have confidence in your leaders and submit to their authority, because they keep watch over you as those who must give an account. Do this so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no benefit to you.”
Looking back at our emotional responses to the last several Presidents, how many of us can say we lived out this verse? I’ve fallen short many times.
Finally, whether Trump’s election win was a good thing or a bad thing, rest assured that God will use it for good. That’s what He does. God allowed Satan to almost completely destroy a man who was upright and blameless, and He used the story to give billions of people an example of faith, patience, and hope. God saved Egypt through a young man whose brothers first sold him into slavery and told their father he’d been killed by an animal. When God allowed bears and lions to raid David’s flock of sheep, He instilled in him the giant-killing confidence necessary to save the Israelites from Goliath and the Persians. And God even used the state-sanctioned execution of His son to save Humanity. The precedent has been set.
Sanders began this controversial quote by saying that God calls all of us to fill different roles at different times. I agree, and I would add that quite often, we have no idea we’re being called. To ensure, then, as Lincoln put it, “we’re on the side of God,” our best bet is to humbly obey God’s word first, then those who are in power over our lives. Or, as Mr. Lincoln also put it, “whatever you are, be a good one.” Christian, citizen, or employee.