A few thoughts from a shepherd on this Election Day 2008:
Continue to be a unique people, intelligently resisting conformity for the sake of the holiness we have been granted in Christ Jesus:
I heard Senator Claire McCaskill (D-Missouri) say that if elected, President-elect Obama’s first action (this week!) would be to reach out to those who didn’t vote for him, “to heal the wound in this country.” I’ve seen this attitude in churches and in our Southern Baptist Convention: if you disagree with me, there’s something seriously wrong. Friends, the brilliance of our country and the joy of being a Baptist (at least historically) is this: you can disagree without being punished. As Americans we can disagree with each other without, Lord willing, there being violence. This is in the First Amendment to the Constitution: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” A disagreement over civil and political policy is not a “wound,” it is a testimony to the liberty we enjoy in this country! As Baptists, it should be that we can honestly search the Scriptures together and discuss our interpretations of God’s Word in love, civility, and honesty. Sadly, in both the civil and religious sphere, disagreements occur in the emotional realm, not as a discussion of various interpretations of either the Constitution (civic) or Bible (religious). I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, that no where in the Bible are we told to conform to society or to act “normal.” In fact, we are “A CHOSEN RACE, A royal PRIESTHOOD, A HOLY NATION, A PEOPLE FOR God's OWN POSSESSION, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light” (1 Peter 2:9). We are not to conform, but to live as if “our citizenship is in heaven” (Philippians 3:20). Resist conformity as a citizen of the United States, because it’s okay to intelligently and peaceably disagree about public policy. Resist thoughtless and emotional conformity as a part of the Body of Christ, intelligently and peaceably examining the Scriptures to see if the teachings of the madman in the pulpit are true, like the Bereans: “…they received the word with great eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see whether these things were so” (Acts 17:11). Also temper your holy skepticism with this goal, to press “on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Let us therefore, as many as are perfect, have this attitude” (Philippians 3:14,15).
Remember Who is in absolute control over the destiny of all humanity and history:
“Let the name of God be blessed forever and ever, for wisdom and power belong to Him. It is He who changes the times and the epochs; He removes kings and establishes kings; He gives wisdom to wise men and knowledge to men of understanding. It is He who reveals the profound and hidden things; He knows what is in the darkness, and the light dwells with Him. To You, O God of my fathers, I give thanks and praise, for You have given me wisdom and power; even now You have made known to me what we requested of You, for You have made known to us the king's matter” (Daniel 2:20-23).
Consider the testimony of pagan king Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon: “…the Most High is ruler over the realm of mankind, and bestows it on whom He wishes…” (Daniel 4:17).
Consider the title of our Lord and Savior, to Whom we owe full and uncompromised allegiance: “…Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth. To Him who loves us and released us from our sins by His blood - and He has made us to be a kingdom, priests to His God and Father - to Him be the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen” (Revelation 1:5,6).
God’s absolute sovereignty has a simple, unavoidable, unalterable, irresistible goal: “He made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His kind intention which He purposed in Him with a view to an administration suitable to the fullness of the times, that is, the summing up of all things in Christ, things in the heavens and things on the earth” (Ephesians 1:9,10).
We will pray for the President-elect, not for mere national well-being, but so that the saints will live in a land of peace, free to fulfill the Great Commission:
“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. For there is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, Who gave Himself as a ransom for all, the testimony given at the proper time” (1 Timothy 1:1-6). Paul is alluding to Jeremiah’s letter to the Exiles in Babylon 600 years earlier, who were living as we ought to be living, as strangers in a strange land (Jeremiah 29:5-7).
“Beloved, I urge you as aliens and strangers to abstain from fleshly lusts which wage war against the soul. Keep your behavior excellent among the Gentiles, so that in the thing in which they slander you as evildoers, they may because of your good deeds, as they observe them glorify God in the day of visitation. Submit yourselves for the Lord's sake to every human institution, whether to a king as the one in authority, or to governors as sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and the praise of those who do right. For such is the will of God that by doing right you may silence the ignorance of foolish men. Act as free men, and do not use your freedom as a covering for evil, but use it as bondslaves of God” (1 Peter 2:11-16).
As the Baptist Faith and Message says: “God alone is Lord of the conscience, and He has left it free from the doctrines and commandments of men which are contrary to His Word or not contained in it. Church and state should be separate. The state owes to every church protection and full freedom in the pursuit of its spiritual ends. In providing for such freedom no ecclesiastical group or denomination should be favored by the state more than others. Civil government being ordained of God, it is the duty of Christians to render loyal obedience thereto in all things not contrary to the revealed will of God. The church should not resort to the civil power to carry on its work. The gospel of Christ contemplates spiritual means alone for the pursuit of its ends. The state has no right to impose penalties for religious opinions of any kind. The state has no right to impose taxes for the support of any form of religion. A free church in a free state is the Christian ideal, and this implies the right of free and unhindered access to God on the part of all men, and the right to form and propagate opinions in the sphere of religion without interference by the civil power” (XVII, “Religious Liberty”).
I am post-scripting this note with a copy of Article II, Section 2-3, of the Constitution of the United States of America (this is section that describes the President’s job description). Despite the stump speeches of both candidates, I find nothing in this document stating that the President is to cure cancer, unify our country, hold everyone’s hand, affirm your self-esteem, meet all your needs, etc. I know I’m narrow minded – for me, the Christian faith is Bible and nothing else. I guess that approach has infected my civic sensibilities, too. I want the President to do what’s written in the document, and nothing else. Anyway, take the time to read through his job description, and use this as a guide to pray for him. By the way, don’t hold me responsible for the spelling of “chuse” (this is a transcript, and this is how they used to spell it).
The President shall be Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States, and of the Militia of the several States, when called into the actual Service of the United States; he may require the Opinion, in writing, of the principal Officer in each of the executive Departments, upon any Subject relating to the Duties of their respective Offices, and he shall have Power to grant Reprieves and Pardons for Offences against the United States, except in Cases of Impeachment.
He shall have Power, by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, to make Treaties, provided two thirds of the Senators present concur; and he shall nominate, and by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, shall appoint Ambassadors, other public Ministers and Consuls, Judges of the supreme Court, and all other Officers of the United States, whose Appointments are not herein otherwise provided for, and which shall be established by Law: but the Congress may by Law vest the Appointment of such inferior Officers, as they think proper, in the President alone, in the Courts of Law, or in the Heads of Departments.
The President shall have Power to fill up all Vacancies that may happen during the Recess of the Senate, by granting Commissions which shall expire at the End of their next Session.
He shall from time to time give to the Congress Information of the State of the Union, and recommend to their Consideration such Measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient; he may, on extraordinary Occasions, convene both Houses, or either of them, and in Case of Disagreement between them, with Respect to the Time of Adjournment, he may adjourn them to such Time as he shall think proper; he shall receive Ambassadors and other public Ministers; he shall take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed, and shall Commission all the Officers of the United States.