I attended East Texas Baptist University, so all of my fellow students at least claimed to be Christians. Thus, although we had some interesting theological discussions, we didn’t have too many in which there was a really sharp disagreement. But I remember one conversation I had with a dear brother in Christ, and unfortunately it rapidly turned into a vehement difference of opinion which stayed just shy of a shouting match. It was in 1996, just on the eave of a Presidential election, and we were discussing the possible outcomes.
We were both rooting for the same man, but our difference unfolded on the issue of what God’s will was. I proposed (what I thought) was the Biblical position that whoever was elected President was put in the White House because the Lord put him there. My friend countered “So what about Hitler? Was he put into power by God’s decree?” Based upon my understanding of the Bible, I'd have to say yes. In fact, I'd go even further. People tend to forget this, but Stalin made Hitler look like an amateur when it came to mass murder, and Mao Tse-Tong leaves them all behind in the dust. According to Scripture, God placed each one of those men in power.
What really disturbed me was that this was actually a controversial issue, since the Bible seems to be pretty clear on it. Roman 13:1-4 explicitly teaches it. Much of the book of Daniel deals with God’s sovereign control over the nations, especially in his dealings with Nebuchadnezzar in chapter 4. This is the main point that the king learned the hard way: “[The] Most High is sovereign over all kingdoms on earth and gives them to anyone he wishes.” Today’s Psalm repeats this motif—“No one from the east or the west or from the desert can exalt themselves. But it is God who judges: He brings one down, he exalts another.”
Now, when I said "controversial" in the last paragraph, I didn't mean it in the sense of "difficult to accept." Of course this is really tough for us to accept, especially when we're under leadership which seems to be incompetent at best and blatantly anti-God at worst. I get that. I struggle with this as well. But if the Bible is God's inerrant word to us, then in the end we have to decide whether we're going to accept it or not. And the Bible is crystal clear that 1) God is sovereign and places people in authority (and removes them) as he chooses, and 2) Every individual is responsible before the Lord for the sinful choices he/she makes.
It might help us, however if we clarify what this does not mean. Remember what we discussed last year when looking at Joseph and his brothers? The Bible’s teaching on sovereignty does not mean that God somehow “takes over” people’s brains and makes them do something they don’t want to do. The Lord used the sinful decisions made by Joseph’s brothers to bring about a great deliverance.
Also we need to keep in mind that just because the Lord places someone in authority, that doesn’t mean that he (God) approves of everything that the authority does. I actually feel weird having to tell someone this, since there are sooooo many counter-examples to this nonsensical idea: Pharaoh, Saul, Nebuchadnezzar, Belshazzar (also in the book of Daniel), and my personal favorite—Pontius Pilate. All of these men were specifically described in Scripture as being placed by God into a position of authority, and all of them came under his judgment for doing something wrong.
So what do we do with this? Right now, there are a lot of Christians, especially politically conservative ones, who are very dismayed by the results of the last Presidential election. I share a lot of their concerns. But can we keep some perspective? Can we keep in mind that our Father is the one who placed him where he is today? This means that our Lord has placed him there with a purpose in mind. And if he’s doing something that you disagree with--especially if it’s something that’s blatantly against God’s word--then by all means speak up. But please keep calm, and remember that our loving Father is still on his throne. Trust me, he really does know what he’s doing.
Father, you’re in charge, and I can trust you. You are good, and you are God. That’s really all I need to know, isn’t it?
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