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Barack Obama, bitterness, fear, honor, political discourse

>Honor Obama

>If I hear one more citation of “Pray for your enemies” in reference to President-elect Obama, I’m going to start slapping people. Come on people! The Church has had REAL enemies throughout history (i.e.,Nero, Diocletian) and has REAL enemies in the world today (i.e., Communist China, the Taliban). We have legitimate disagreements with Obama, to be sure, but for conservative Christians to freak out and label the President-elect an “enemy” displays a severe lack of perspective and trivializes the suffering that our brothers and sisters throughout history have had to endure at the hands of genuine enemies.

Peter wrote his first epistle to believers who were suffering intense persecution under the reign of Nero. Nero, you may recall, was a vicious tyrant who blamed Christians for the burning of Rome and had thousands crucified and literally burned their bodies as torches to light the way into the city. If there was ever an enemy of the Church, it was Nero. And yet, Peter wrote these words to the Christians suffering under his tyranny: “Be subject for the LORD’s sake to every human institution, whether it be the emperor as supreme, or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do evil and praise those who do good. For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people. Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God. Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor.” (1 Peter 2:13-17) To honor someone doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to make yourself like him, but it does mean that you place a high value upon that person and that your responses to him reflect the proper respect due to him. “Honor the emperor,” the crazy guy who wants to wipe you and the rest of the Church off the face of the earth.

In this perspective, Barack Obama is not even close to being our enemy. He is our next President, legitimately and peacefully elected by the citizens of our great republic. As followers of Jesus, we must do more than reluctantly or grudgingly accept President-elect Obama. We must honor him. We don’t have to agree with him, and we don’t have to rubber-stamp every policy that he champions. We can disagree passionately and often, but we MUST do so respectfully. To fail to do so is disobedience to God’s will and cheapens the testimony of the Church before the world (“For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people.” 1 Peter 2:15).

I believe that there are two things keeping many in the Church from honoring President-elect Obama right now: fear and bitterness. Fear does not come from our Father, but from our enemy. God gives us a spirit “of power and love and self-control,” (2 Timothy 1:7). So we should walk in His power rather than limping along as a weak victim; we should overwhelm our world with love rather than being overwhelmed by hatred; and we should exercise self-control rather than surrendering to the self-gratification of insults and innuendo. We must also take caution to ensure that “no root of bitterness springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled,” (Hebrews 12:15). Giving way to bitterness corrupts our own soul and then spreads its decay to those around us. If we treat President-elect Obama with disrespect and contempt, we ally ourselves with the vocal minority who have spewed hatred and rage towards President Bush and Republicans for the past 8 years. We must not be allies with hatred; rather, we must defeat hatred with love. Or, as Paul said, “Do not be overcome with evil, but overcome evil with good,” (Romans 12:21).

Again, this does not mean that we cannot disagree, and disagree passionately, with our new leaders. Dissent with charity and grace is a hallmark of a free people, and yet it has become a rarity in modern political discourse. Those of us who claim allegiance to the God of infinite love and grace should set the standard for charitable and gracious dissent, should we not?! At this moment in history the Church has an opportunity to do what others have been unable or unwilling to do in the recent past: change the tone of political discourse in this nation. If we will lead the way by honoring President-elect Obama and expressing our dissent with the respect due to his position, we will see even greater change than was promised in his campaign. Yes we can!

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Discussion

17 thoughts on “>Honor Obama

  1. >After reading the comments on his page I think it would be unwise to engage such foolishness. Who is this guy anyway?

    Posted by Mark Mathews | November 10, 2008, 8:08 am
  2. >Mark, I dare you to make that comment on Dan Phillips’ blog :).

    Posted by David Cho | November 10, 2008, 4:18 am
  3. >I have to take the side of OSO on this one (I can’t believe it:-). What Phillips wrote is poison. To compare the feelings of those who voted for McCain with someone who has been raped, robbed, or had a loved on commit suicide or adultery is a typical fundamentalist knee-jerk overstatement. Of all of his “biblical” ramblings, I didn’t see many NT texts such as Romans 13 dealing with authority. In fact, he seemed to skip over that. In addition, he states that since Obama has been elected all of a sudden babies are going to start getting aborted! Friend, babies were getting aborted all through the Bush presidency. I know Obama is “Mr. Abortion,” according to Phillips, and there is no doubt he will support some very radical pro-abortion policies. But to make it out like all of a sudden a new day has dawned because Obama has been elected is ludicrous.I tell you, I’m getting more and more disgusted with people like this. What is really disgusting is that he entitles his blog “Biblical Christianity.” And while I’m sure he is very biblical in the hobby-horse positions he has chosen to defend, he should take his own advice and read all of the Bible. Don’t just pick and choose what suits your position. Certainly we should look at the prophets, but how about the NT, what about Paul. You don’t get a lot government busting from him, just pray for your leaders and understand “all” authority is from God (this would mean not just conservative Republican government).Look, I’ll say it again to make my position clear so that cowboy evangelical doesn’t try to brand me a heretic (typical sectarian fundamentalist approach). I did not vote for Obama and am not overjoyed that he won. But I do recognize him as the leader of our country and to the degree that he doesn’t start making us bow down to statues of him or bring Presidential Worship into act, I am going to spend my time praying for him. God can change him a lot better than we can standing around running our mouths in a very negative, non-Christian way. He will have to answer for the policies he puts in place.Anyway, strong language for strong language. Fundamentalism seems to be creeping into the door.

    Posted by Mark Mathews | November 9, 2008, 7:13 pm
  4. >I know I’ll get flamed for this, but I actually agree with much of Dan Phillip’s post that he wrote after the election.

    Posted by J.Wizzle | November 8, 2008, 4:51 pm
  5. >That post was a welcome piece of reading, especially after reading Dan Phillip’s bile.

    Posted by One Salient Oversight | November 8, 2008, 1:26 pm
  6. >” I’m not allowed to question Obama’s faith on the grounds of his policies but you’re allowed to question mine for opposing him. Interesting.”Darrell,Please allow me to explain my comment concerning your previous statements (which have now changed in the present comment).First, I don’t think it’s my place or your place to question anyone’s faith. I am not questioning yours, I am asking you to read Scripture that indicates hatred toward another brother indicates walking in darkness. Obama professes to be a believer and I’m not sure you or I are called to be the “faith” police. You’re allowed to do whatever you want to. I was just pointing out how ridiculous your statement was. So is that the criteria by which you measure a man’s faith, his political policies? Are you then telling me he cannot be a believer and hold certain political positions? Could you tell me where I can find this in the Bible? “What I am talking about is that insofar as President Obama (or Bush, or Clinton, et al) rejects God’s clear commands, he puts himself in opposition to my beliefs.”If this is what you’re talking about it is not what you said in your first post. You clearly stated that Obama was an “enemy of God.” Here you speak of him being in opposition to your beliefs. I have no problem with the latter statement. He is in opposition to many of my beliefs but I will not call him an enemy of God. Whether you use the word antagonist, enemy, or whatever else, your point originally seemed to demonize Obama as someone that God does not like or approve of because of his political policies. BTW, are there any “clear commands” you’re rejecting? Think before you answer. Myself, I can honestly say, “Yes.” I know there are things in my life that are not right. But this poses another question, what “clear commands” are you talking about?”I can pray for him. But it will not be the intercessory prayer for a righteous brother. It will be a plea for God to bring him to repentance. “Praying for him is the right thing to do. I would say to you, as I say to myself, before you try to pluck the speck out of your brother’s eye, first remove the plank from your own eye. We are told to pray for our leaders so that we may live peaceable lives. Nowhere are we told to pray for our leaders to come to the same theological conclusions that we hold. I don’t have any desire to verbally abuse you. You have become defensive over my pushing back on your statement that was way over the top. What I am trying to get you to do is to have a sound biblically based theological position rather than the typical American Evangelical knee-jerk over-reaction because a conservative Christian Republican is not the President. It’s funny how Republican Christian presidents are taken as solid believers and Democrats are questioned, vilified, and called enemies of God. Obviously we have mixed too much politics into our theology. Not a good mix.

    Posted by Mark Mathews | November 8, 2008, 10:02 am
  7. >Darrell, Mark was not questioning your faith. He was simply taking your own line of argument and demonstrating the shaky theological ground that it stands upon. You wrote:What I am talking about is that insofar as President Obama (or Bush, or Clinton, et al) rejects God’s clear commands, he puts himself in opposition to my beliefs.I think those last two words are crucial. How can one elevate “my beliefs” to the level that anyone who holds a different belief is the enemy of God? I’m not talking about relativism here. I’m talking about holding our beliefs with the humility of knowing that every one of us has embraced bad theology in the past and there are some points of our current theology that is bad and will change as we walk further into the light of truth. As for how we treat a fellow believer who does not hold proper doctrine or practice right behavior, Paul’s words to the Thessalonians are instructive:”If anyone does not obey what we say in this letter, take note of that person, and have nothing to do with him, that he may be ashamed. Do not regard him as an enemy, but warn him as a brother.”If we go around calling Obama our enemy, we forfeit any opportunity to warn him as a brother.

    Posted by Dwight Watson | November 8, 2008, 1:56 am
  8. >But to call another professing Christian an enemy of God in fact might indicate you yourself are walking in darkness.Sweet irony. I’m not allowed to question Obama’s faith on the grounds of his policies but you’re allowed to question mine for opposing him. Interesting.Yes, we are all enemies of God in the Adamic sense. What I am speaking of here is not a positional question. (I have no idea if Obama is a true believer or not. Black Liberation Theology is not orthodox, but I digress) What I am talking about is that insofar as President Obama (or Bush, or Clinton, et al) rejects God’s clear commands, he puts himself in opposition to my beliefs. Again, I’ve seen no definition for the word “enemy” but I’m willing to drop it and say “opponent” or “antagonist.”Consider a poor analogy, if you will. If a man has a gun to my child’s head, I would say that he and I are at odds. We are definitely on different sides of the question of my child’s safety. Whether or not that man is a Christian is not germane at that moment. We ipso facto in opposition to each other because of our opposing goals in the situation.If Obama wishes to sign into law the Freedom of Choice Act, we are not on the same side. We are antagonists, and I will speak of him in those terms. Whether or not he is a professing Christian makes no difference in my efforts to oppose him and what he is doing regardless of whether we are brothers in Christ. But in that scenario, even as I speak out against everything that he is supporting, I can pray for him. But it will not be the intercessory prayer for a righteous brother. It will be a plea for God to bring him to repentance. You may now verbally abuse me (your Christian brother!) to your heart’s content.

    Posted by Darrell | November 8, 2008, 1:32 am
  9. >Darrell, in addition to Mark’s response, I would invite you to read my response to a similar objection on my personal blog.

    Posted by Dwight Watson | November 7, 2008, 7:46 pm
  10. >”To the extent that President-elect Obama supports godless agendas he is the enemy of God.”One does not have to support godless agendas to be an enemy of God. We were all enemies of God, though he has shown us mercy and grace. So are you so good now that it becomes the “us” and “them” mentality? This is sectarian language. Paul warns the Gentiles not to be arrogant of their position in Romans 11:20-21. Yet Obama professes faith in Jesus Christ and you consider him an enemy. According to the Scriptures it is IMPOSSIBLE for him to be considered an enemy of God. If he is a believer, and I am assuming he is, then he has been reconciled to God. Does he do everything right? No. Do you or I? No. Does he agree on everything I agree on? Does he have to align himself with your theology to be a “non-enemy”? Dear friend, this is a very non-biblical position. It lacks one ounce of solid theology. Please, stop this foolishness!I disagree with some of Obama’s views on government and agree on others. I disagree with him on moral issues and agree on others. But this man has been a professing Christian and part of a Christian church for some time (though I also don’t agree with the positions of his previous pastor). But you know what, you and I don’t have it all right either. Or should I at least say of myself, I know I don’t have everything right. But to call another professing Christian an enemy of God in fact might indicate you yourself are walking in darkness. (1 John 2:9-11) It’s a real shame to see politics cause believers to stumble in this way.

    Posted by Mark Mathews | November 7, 2008, 5:44 pm
  11. >I think the term ‘enemy’ bears a bit more defining than Dwight has done here. To the extent that President-elect Obama supports godless agendas he is the enemy of God. If I am follower of God’s way then that puts my agendas at odds with those of President Obama. To that extent we are ‘enemies’ or at least ‘antagonists.’

    Posted by Darrell | November 7, 2008, 1:21 am
  12. >I really appreciate this post. Did you all see the recent blog post by Josh Harris that applies Romans 13 to the same situation? It’s good (and short, so I had no qualms about copy/pasting and emailing it to all my friends and family). I have no clue how to post a link on here, so just go Google Josh’s blog. You’ll find it. 🙂

    Posted by mhgood | November 7, 2008, 12:58 am
  13. >”Perhaps when we’re “sure” that the guy in office is God’s chosen we just trust that God is part of the equation? No need to really bring God into politics until its the other guy in office.”Romans 13 clearly indicates that whoever is in office is God’s chosen. We just have a bad habit of deciding who we think is God’s chosen. The post is great Dwight, because Barak is not our enemy. He is God’s chosen leader for this nation at this time. Moreover, and I have just missed it, we are told to pray for those in high positions (1 Tim 2:1-2). I have never in my life heard such unbiblical thought processes coming out of the Christian church. Your post is a step to set this straight but I wonder how we have gotten so far off track that politics begins to drive our theology?

    Posted by Mark Mathews | November 7, 2008, 12:43 am
  14. >Thanks David. I also thought about the “God is in control” bit too, but it just didn’t fit into my post without making it too long. I don’t think anyone intends to suggest that God was not in control when Bush was in the White House. However, I think that there is this subtle, unconscious feeling that things were kind of on auto-pilot with our guy in office. Perhaps when we’re “sure” that the guy in office is God’s chosen we just trust that God is part of the equation? No need to really bring God into politics until its the other guy in office. Don’t know. Just thinking “out loud.”

    Posted by Dwight Watson | November 7, 2008, 12:15 am
  15. >Perhaps. I never heard anyone say that when Bush was elected. It was, “Praise God for placing a godly man in office.”Excellent post, Dwight

    Posted by David Cho | November 7, 2008, 12:06 am
  16. >”Or if I hear one more time about how “God is in control.”Um…so when one of our guys was in the White House, God wasn’t in control?”I don’t think anyone thinks that. I think it’s more of a reminder that no matter what happens (even when things don’t go our way) that God is in control and His will will be done.

    Posted by J.Wizzle | November 6, 2008, 10:44 pm
  17. >Or if I hear one more time about how “God is in control.”Um…so when one of our guys was in the White House, God wasn’t in control?

    Posted by David Cho | November 6, 2008, 10:15 pm

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