Let’s Talk About Our Politicians

February 8, 2024

Let’s Talk About Our Politicians

Fill in the blank. “The President of the United States is a/an ________________.” When Paul was on trial before the Jewish council (Acts 23:1ff.), the high priest Ananias commanded him to be struck on the mouth. Paul lashed out saying, “God is going to strike you, you whitewashed wall! Are you sitting to judge me according to the law, and yet contrary to the law you order me to be struck?” Paul was called out for reviling the high priest in which he responded (Acts 23:5), “I did not know, brothers, that he was the high priest, for it is written, ‘You shall not speak evil of a ruler of your people.’”

Paul’s encounter with the high priest warrants a review of our opening “fill in the blank.” How ought we to answer such a question regarding our rulers? We don’t want to lie and say they’re great if they’re not. But do we want to go so far as to curse them with judgment? Let’s see if we can find God’s heart in the matter.

This passage (Acts 23) has produced varying opinions over the centuries. Some say Paul was apologetic and submitted himself to the law (Exodus 22:28) with wisdom and tact before his Jewish audience. Others estimate that Paul was being sarcastic and saying in essence “I didn’t know a man such as this could be high priest,” followed by the reason why the council indicted him.

Maybe a good place to start is Exodus 22:28 which says, “You shall not revile God, nor curse a ruler of your people.” God selected the high priest and he was therefore an extension of God’s rule. As such God barred His people from calling down judgment curses upon His chosen high priest. God’s heart was to respect the authority of His high priest. But what about other rulers, such as governors and presidents, as we live under the new covenant?

As we venture into the New Testament, we find Paul instructing the church to submit to their secular rulers, “For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. 2Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment.” (Rom 13:1a–2) But what if these authorities are corrupt and unjust? Paul wasn’t seeking to answer that question. He simply gave us a foundational attitude to work from. Surely, God would not have us submit to ungodly policies (such as emperor worship or indoctrinating children with LGBTQ views), but He would have us submit with an overall attitude of orderly submission to our leaders.

Jesus, while on trial similarly to Paul, declared to the high priest Caiaphas (Mark 14:62), “you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven.” This could be a reference to Jesus’ exaltation to the right hand of the Father or His second coming in judgment.1 Jesus also pronounced judgment woes upon Pharisaical leadership for various sins (Matt. 23:1ff.). Is there a place for us to imitate Jesus and pronounce judgment woes upon our leadership for steering people away from Him? Or is that His prerogative only? Only a few other instances possibly imitate Jesus here. Jude pronounced woes upon those who follow the way of Cain (v. 11) and angels pronounced woes upon people of the earth (Rev. 8:13).

Coming back to Paul, he states (Eph. 4:29), “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.” The church is not to speak harmfully to one another. Our tongues are to be used to speak life rather than death (Proverbs 18:21). Moreover, Paul said (1 Cor. 4:12b–13a), “When reviled, we bless; when persecuted, we endure; 13when slandered, we entreat.” It seems Paul may have misapplied this during his confrontation with the high priest Ananias. Is Paul human too?

Where is God’s heart in how we ought to talk about our politicians? This brief study leads me to conclude that we would speak respectively, submissively, honestly, and in edification. We speak with respect and submission to the office and the one holding it. We speak honestly about ungodly policies and actions. And we speak so they would know that we pray for them to do well, according to the wisdom and glory of God.

Our country has lost near total respect for authority. Both sides of the political aisle tear into one another. The news showcases it daily. And social media stirs the pot. May God grant us His heart in regard to our politicians to speak in a God honoring and Christ shining way, for the sake of the attractiveness of the Gospel.

1I prefer the interpretation that it refers to Jesus’ second coming in judgment.