It seems people either love or hate President Donald Trump. Few are indifferent. I’ve lived through 12 U.S. presidents (beginning with Dwight Eisenhower), and I can’t recall any who have been more polarizing.
Personally, I love Donald Trump. One reason is because his obvious flaws remind me so much of myself. He seems to be living with the same fleshly nature as I am.
I also love Donald Trump because I believe God expects me to love him. And I think I can say with some degree of certainty that God also loves him (if I’m reading John 3:16 correctly).
Incidentally, I also loved Barack Obama, and I still do. And I believe God also loves him.
God wants both men to be forgiven of their sins, members of His family, obeying His Son and living forever with Him. And both are still breathing, so God is still being merciful to both.
And this is why I scratch my head when we Christians express hatred toward presidents. This is something we’d expect from those who have not been forgiven of their sins and become God’s very own children. But for those of us who were once counted among the world’s dirty rotten scoundrels—who have since been given a bath in God’s amazing grace—we ought to be showing grace towards others. James wrote:
But no one can tame the tongue; it is a restless evil and full of deadly poison. With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the likeness of God; from the same mouth come both blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be this way. Does a fountain send out from the same opening both fresh and bitter water? Can a fig tree, my brethren, produce olives, or a vine produce figs? Nor can salt water produce fresh (Jas. 3:8-12; italics added).
Did you notice James’ rationale regarding why it is wrong for us to curse men? It is because they bear God’s image. When we curse people, we curse something that resembles God. “These things ought not to be.”
If we’re obedient to Jesus, we’ll bless those who curse us (Luke 6:38). How much more should we bless those who haven’t cursed us?
Christians are not to be known by their caustic political rants, but by their love. This doesn’t mean that we don’t offer our opinions on political issues (most of which are moral issues that are worthy of conversation), but that we do so with grace, gentleness and patience, understanding that those who don’t have a biblical world view are walking in darkness, just as we once were. They are spiritual children of Satan, captives to his lies (Eph. 2:2; 2 Tim. 2:24-26), just as we once were. So, of course their thinking is twisted. The real problem isn’t their viewpoint. It is their nature. We should never forget that we were once just like them!
Moral/political discussions, of course, can be excellent springboards for sharing the gospel, also with grace. For example: “I used to be pro-abortion, but God radically changed my life through Jesus, and now I realize that killing a fetus is killing a human being, just as everyone knows that destroying an eagle’s egg (a federal crime) is killing an eagle.” Or, “Mixing Christianity with politics is kind of like mixing ice cream with horse manure. It doesn’t do much to the manure, but it sure does ruin the ice cream. So let’s discuss the real issue.”
I might also add that we should choose our battles wisely, knowing that God does not want us “casting our pearls before swine.” As Mark Twain reportedly said (and the Bible agrees in Prov. 26:4), “Never argue with a fool; onlookers may not be able to tell the difference.” It is indeed foolish to argue with fools.
But back to my main point regarding our conversation about the president. Here’s a question to ask ourselves that will uncover what is truly hiding in our hearts: Have I prayed today for the president [whoever he is], as well as the other government leaders whose decisions affect so many people? Christians who pray for governmental leaders demonstrate hearts full of love. Christians whose mouths are full of contempt demonstrate a lack of love. The New Testament admonishes us:
First of all, then, I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men, for kings and all who are in authority, so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity. This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth (1 Tim. 2:1-4; emphasis added).
Obviously, our prayers for governmental leaders can affect what happens in our nation, otherwise the Holy Spirit would not have inspired Paul to write those words. I wonder, while we might be apt to blame governmental leaders for our nation’s problems, might God be rightfully blaming us, at least in part, for our own lack of prayers, motivated from hearts of love?
Another reason we should pray for our governmental leaders is because we believe—if we believe the Bible—that God sovereignly establishes them. It is not something He has left to chance, or even to the whims of voters, even though it might appear that way. God is actively involved in who is exalted to political leadership and who is humbled. Through political leaders, God judges or blesses groups of people, and the Bible is full of proof of this. We read, for example, in Romans 13:
Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God. Therefore whoever resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God; and they who have opposed will receive condemnation upon themselves. For rulers are not a cause of fear for good behavior, but for evil. Do you want to have no fear of authority? Do what is good and you will have praise from the same; for it is a minister of God to you for good. But if you do what is evil, be afraid; for it does not bear the sword for nothing; for it is a minister of God, an avenger who brings wrath on the one who practices evil. Therefore it is necessary to be in subjection, not only because of wrath, but also for conscience’ sake. For because of this you also pay taxes, for rulers are servants of God, devoting themselves to this very thing. Render to all what is due them: tax to whom tax is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honor to whom honor (Rom. 13:1-7; emphasis added).
Of course, there is a place for civil disobedience, and God also holds governmental leaders accountable. Still, we read four times in the book of Daniel, “the Most High is ruler over the realm of mankind, and He bestows it on whom He wishes” (Dan. 4:17, 25, 32; 5:21). That means God granted Donald Trump the U.S. presidency. He previously granted it to Barack Obama. Sure, both were elected by voting Americans. God, however, can easily influence voters to achieve any outcome He desires. (Paul wrote that one day, God will send a deluding influence on people who reject the truth so that they will all “vote” for the antichrist; see 2 Thes. 2:8-12.)
A Prime Example
Think about it. Three of those four identical references I just mentioned from Daniel were all spoken directly to King Nebuchadnezzar shortly before he was divinely humbled for seven years. During that time, he lost his mind and position as king of Babylon, the world’s preeminent political office in his day. What would be the chances of any former political leader—who lost his mind and lived like a wild animal for seven years—ever regaining his political power? Nebuchadnezzar’s second ascension to the throne is even more astounding than his first. Only God could do such a thing. All of that is to say, if God wants someone to be the U.S. president, He can get that person into the office. And if God wants to remove someone from being U.S. president, He can remove that person from office. “He removes kings and establishes kings” (Dan. 2:21).
And God sometimes puts some pretty unlikely characters into political offices. Nebuchadnezzar, for example, was not exactly known for his benevolent, diplomatic rule. He was a hot-tempered, ruthless dictator. When his wise men couldn’t tell him his troubling dream, he decreed that they would all be “torn limb from limb” (Dan. 2:5). I would consider ripping people apart by means of tying their arms and legs to horses and driving them in opposite directions to be a very cruel and unusual punishment, and one that didn’t exactly fit the crime. Nebuchadnezzar ruled by terror.
When Daniel’s three friends refused to worship Nebuchadnezzar’s statue, he tossed them into a blazing furnace to be roasted alive, but only after first ordering it to be heated seven times hotter. The result was that the guards who cast them into the furnace all died. Nebuchadnezzar personally oversaw the intended execution, putting himself in a vantage point where he could hear the anticipated screams of the condemned men and watch their bodies crackle and pop. And this is the man whom God exalted! This is the man whom God gave several prophetic, messianic dreams that are recorded in the Bible and still very relevant! This is the man to whom Daniel declared:
You, O king, are the king of kings, to whom the God of heaven has given the kingdom, the power, the strength and the glory; and wherever the sons of men dwell, or the beasts of the field, or the birds of the sky, He has given them into your hand and has caused you to rule over them all (Dan. 2:36-38).
This begs the question: Why? Why did God choose Nebuchadnezzar? It certainly wasn’t because of his Christlike character.
No one but God knows His reason for choosing Nebuchadnezzar. And the same is true of Donald Trump and Barack Obama, both very unlikely presidential candidates, at least at one time in their lives.
What Should We Do?
I need to make one final point as we approach the next election cycle. Even though God sovereignly establishes earthly political leaders, it is also clear from Scripture—as I have already pointed out from 1 Timothy 2:1-4—that God responds to our prayers for our nation and its leaders. Although none of us can fully understand that mystery with our peanut-brains, they are both biblical facts. So, we should not only vote (after first seeking God regarding whom we should vote for), but also ask God for continued mercy on our nation, lest He judge us by giving us whom we deserve rather than bless us by giving us whom we don’t deserve. “Seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf; for in its welfare you will have welfare” (Jer. 29:7).
More than anything, we need to maintain the freedoms that allow us to worship God, obey His commandments, and spread the gospel. “When the righteous are in authority, the people rejoice; but when a wicked man rules, the people groan” (Prov. 29:12, NKJV).
Would to God that all political positions in every nation were occupied by true lovers of Jesus. One day, they will be—when Jesus rules the world, and when the righteous rule and reign with Him (2 Tim. 2:12; Rev. 20:6). Until then, if God mercifully gives us current leaders who possess at least some degree of righteousness, it is just a tiny taste of what heaven will be like! — David