Five Biblical Responses to Political Leaders - Radical

Five Biblical Responses to Political Leaders

The upcoming presidential election is just around the corner, and we can’t escape hearing from or about Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. We are constantly being told what to think and who to vote for. Undoubtedly some political commentators are making us so infuriated that we can’t see straight. It can become difficult for Christians to discern politics and form a biblical response to political leaders.

Biblical Response to Political Leaders

This kind of atmosphere makes it a good time to think through the Bible’s teaching on our responsibility as Christians toward our political leaders. With that in mind, I’ve listed five principles from Scripture that should guide the way we think about our president, regardless of who he or she may be. Given the nature of our political system, many of these principles would also apply to other elected officials and to other parts of our government, both national and local. There’s certainly more to be said on this topic, but these five points should help lay a good foundation.

1. Always see God’s hand behind your political leaders.

Regardless of whether you like or dislike a president, know that God has placed him (or her) in that position for his own purposes. Paul says that our political leaders have been “instituted by God” (Romans 13:1). In other words, God is sovereign over presidential elections. Of course, that doesn’t mean that people will choose wisely or in accordance with biblical convictions, nor does it mean that elections can’t have disastrous consequences. However, God’s authority is not limited by who’s in office, no matter how unjust that person may be. God has a track record of using sinful circumstances for his saving purposes—just think of the cross.

2. Normally submit to your political leaders.

Since political leaders are appointed by God (see #1 above), then it makes sense that we would submit to them. Paul says that we should “be subject to the governing authorities,” and that to resist them would be to resist God (Romans 13:1-2). Obeying the law, then, is not merely a suggestion. (Note: we’ll look at the one exception to this principle in the next point). And remember, the Paul who wrote that didn’t get to vote in a general election. So also many Christians throughout history have lived under wicked rulers with unrestrained power, yet the command to obey is still the same. It is by doing good that we can “put to silence the ignorance of foolish people” (1 Peter 2:15). Yes, we have the privilege in this country of affecting laws, but once they are passed we have a responsibility as Christians to comply with them.

3. If necessary, disobey your political leaders.

The command to obey our political leaders is not absolute. When they forbid what God has commanded, or when they command what God has forbidden, then disobedience for the Christian is not an option. It’s a duty. When Peter and John were told not to preach in the name of Jesus, they defiantly proclaimed Christ. Their response to the Jewish leadership was, “We must obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29). That should be our conviction too. If the government tells us not to share our faith, then we should keep on speaking. If our government requires that we celebrate so-called same sex marriage, then we must refuse. But remember, such disobedience should be carried out with humility, grace, and with faith in God.

4. Consistently pray for your political leaders.

Scripture urges us to pray for “kings and all who are in high positions” (1 Timothy 2:2), and that includes leaders we disagree with. We ought to pray that God would bless them with wisdom, humility, and a heart for what is just. We should pray for their salvation, for their marriages, and for their children. What a blessing it would be for a president to be converted in office, both for the individual and for the nation as a whole. Remember that the king’s heart is the Lord’s to work with, for “he turns it wherever he will” (Proverbs 21:1).

5. Never expect too much from political leaders.

Finally, we should not look to our president (or to the government) to bring us ultimate joy and security. Political leaders have their roles—and they are critical roles—but “salvation belongs to the Lord” (Jonah 2:9). God has given us earthly rulers to restrain evil and to promote what is good, not to eradicate sin and suffering. That’s the role of a Messiah, and we already have one of those. In God’s goodness, he does provide just political leaders at times. Even then our hope must be based on Christ and on the promises of God’s Word. The real place of power is not in Washington, but at God’s right hand.

David Burnette serves as the Chief Editor for Radical. He lives with his wife and three kids in Birmingham, Alabama, and he serves as an elder at Philadelphia Baptist Church. He received his Ph.D. from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.

Less than 1% of all money given to missions goes to unreached people and places.*

That means that the people with the most urgent spiritual and physical needs on the planet are receiving the least amount of support. Let's change that!