Tuesday, November 11, 2008

A President Is Not a King

Before the election, a Christian sister sent me a Bible verse, Psalm 146:3:

Do not put your trust in princes, in mortal men, who cannot save.

It is, of course, wise advice. But I’m not sure of her objective in sending it before the election, other than to blunt my passion for a particular candidate. I think she mistook my discernment and passion for worship and total trust.

I don’t know if she was suggesting that Christians shouldn’t vote, or shouldn’t care, or shouldn’t campaign, or shouldn’t get up false hopes about a candidate’s chances or abilities. None of it made sense to me in the days before an election. Regardless of who won the election, someone could put undue faith in that person.

But that is no reason not to vote and not to campaign for-- and not to tell the truth about-- and not to hope and pray for-- the most just, righteous, godly, able, and wise person to become our leader.

I am drawn to the prayer in Psalm 72, which begins:

Endow the king with your justice, O God,
the royal son with your righteousness.

He will judge your people in righteousness,
your afflicted ones with justice.

The mountains will bring prosperity to the people,
the hills the fruit of righteousness.

He will defend the afflicted among the people
and save the children of the needy;
he will crush the oppressor.

He will endure as long as the sun,
as long as the moon, through all generations.

He will be like rain falling on a mown field,
like showers watering the earth.

In his days the righteous will flourish;
prosperity will abound till the moon is no more.

While I am well aware that it is God who establishes governmental leadership, God chooses to do so by using any number of governmental systems. The problem with applying too quickly the lessons from these Psalms in the USA is that we have neither princes nor kings. Unlike most governments throughout history—which choose their rulers by bloodline or violence--Americans vote. Such was the genius of the new idea of American democracy. So God establishes authority in the USA by the votes of the people.

And while we have had makeshift dynasties, the American system works against them. In this era, a President has only 4-8 years to pursue an agenda—not enough time to carry out a Messiah mandate and not enough time to do major damage.

So we elect a President and a Congress, and both are checked and balanced by the courts. And we try to remember that we are a government of, for, and by the people.

And we pray for our leaders that they will govern with wisdom and justice. That is what we elect them to do.

If they inspire us to participate in the American community, to care for our fellow citizens, to actually work for a more perfect union, that’s icing on the cake.

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