We’re called to honor our leaders

Published 9:50 pm Friday, December 2, 2016

By Dr. Thurman R. Hayes Jr.

In the aftermath of the election, there has been much division in our country, with many people taking to the streets to protest and even actors on Broadway calling out the vice president-elect.

College campuses, in particular, have been centers of protest and mourning, offering “safe spaces” for students to go and do things like talk to grief counselors, stroke puppies, blow bubbles and work with Play-Doh.

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Unfortunately, I’m not joking. These students are claiming to feel oppressed, all because their candidate did not win.

I’ve been able to travel to many nations where people truly are oppressed. Trust me, Americans are not oppressed. We live in the greatest nation on earth, with privileges that the vast majority of people around the world only dream of having.

College students and actors who work on Broadway are among the most privileged people in a very privileged nation.

So it was jarring to see what happened recently after a performance of the hit Broadway musical, “Hamilton.”

Vice President-Elect Pence and his family had chosen to attend the musical for the same reasons that any of us choose to go to a movie or a musical or a game — to relax. Furthermore, the Pence family was honoring the cast of Hamilton by choosing to attend their show. For the cast to then subject them to a political lecture from the stage was radically out of line.

Pence graciously deflected the insult and even encouraged others to go see “Hamilton.” He said, “I will leave it to others to decide whether it was the right venue” for the cast to make such a statement.

Well, it was most certainly not the right venue. But there is a much deeper issue here for Christians. The Bible calls us to show honor and respect for people in authority.

Romans 13:1 makes it clear that governing authorities are “instituted by God.” Therefore, there is a respect due to them, simply because God has put them in their positions. 1 Peter 2:17 says, “Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor.”

This does not obligate us to agree with political leaders. (We can be certain that Paul and Peter did not agree with the pagan Roman emperor.) It does not mean that it is wrong to voice criticism of them. It does mean there is a certain respect and honor that must be shown to them.

Again, it is not a matter of always agreeing with the governing authorities. It is a matter of respect and civility, and showing the proper honor to those God has placed in high positions. It is about choosing the proper forums to criticize them and expressing our criticism with the proper respect.

This biblical command must also be applied in all our interaction with people. We can get a lot further with people if we will pray for them and speak to them with love, honor and respect. As we do so, we are showing love, honor and respect for God.

As Christians, we should be neither knee-jerk critics nor blind followers of political leaders. We follow the King of kings. But God commands us to pray earnestly for our leaders. Pray that He will grant them the wisdom and courage to lead us well.

Dr. Thurman R. Hayes is senior pastor of First Baptist Church of Suffolk. Follow him on Twitter at @ThurmanHayesJr.