Are you suffering from election anxiety? It happens in every presidential election cycle; we become gripped with a terrible fear: “What if THEY win?” This time around, election anxiety has reached epidemic levels. Many people I know plan to vote, but aren’t excited about either candidate. Some are downright terrified. Honestly, I would be tempted to fall into that second camp myself. But then I realize that the political leader in charge when many of the New Testament’s books were being written was Nero. No matter who we elect next November, he or she cannot possibly be as cruel, incompetent, and rabidly anti-Christian as Nero. Yet both Peter (1 Peter 2:17) and Paul (1 Timothy 2:1-4), urged Christians of that time to pray for and give honor to their secular political rulers. Paul even wrote at length in Romans 13 about how the governing authorities are established by God as tools to punish evil, and how we as God’s people should make sure we obey the laws of the land.
Does that mean that we should never protest a decision made by our leaders? Were German Christians like Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrong to oppose Hitler and his attempt to destroy the Jews? No, because the same apostles who commanded us to obey our earthly leaders also lived by the principle: We must obey God rather than men (Acts 5:29). In other words, they would respect and pray for their leaders, even those whose lifestyles and decisions were contemptible, and would obey the laws of the land, even those which went against their preferences and opinions. But above all else, they would seek first the Kingdom of God. They would love people in Jesus’ name, and do whatever was necessary to bring others into His family. If doing that brought them into conflict with their earthly rulers, they would choose God, even if it meant death. Ultimately, that’s exactly what happened to Peter and Paul, both of whom died as martyrs under Nero.
Why don’t the letters of those first-century Christians reflect any hint of the anger, fear and frustration we feel about our own elected officials, considering their leaders were even worse? I think it’s because they knew who was really in charge. Earthly governments rise and fall, but God is the perpetually unopposed incumbent. Living as Christians in a nation with questionable political leadership is like being a child with a lousy third grade teacher who also lives in a home with a great Mom and Dad. Third grade will be over soon enough; but Mom and Dad will always be there, providing you with the love and wisdom to live the life you were created to live. I hope you will vote responsibly this November. But don’t sweat the election; the ultimate outcome of the most important contest is already decided. King Jesus will reign forever. Take your worries and fears to Him today.