Each time a new President is elected, we witness a peaceful transfer of power. This transfer is unique, and we’re fortunate to live in a country where presidential transitions have yet to cause an upheaval of our citizenry or the demise of our republic.
I’ve heard people talk about the agendas and itineraries of both our outgoing President and our incoming President. In historic moments like these, people want to know what each leader is doing in the days leading up to inauguration, and especially on the day itself. In that spirit, I want to suggest an “agenda” that I believe would honor God and enable us to be faithful to his commands.
Let’s make it our agenda to be salt and light in our cities and communities. What an opportunity we have as the people of God to let our light shine as we fulfill our role as the salt of the earth (see Matt. 5:13-16). Many years ago, a statement was made about America being a great city on a hill. While we certainly want to be a nation that shines forth benevolence and goodwill, we must remember that these words of Jesus are directed to his followers: “You are the light of the world. A city set a hill cannot be hidden” (Matt. 5:14).
John 1:14 tells us that Jesus was full of grace and truth. Let’s allow him to be our example and to set the standard. He was never afraid to speak truth, and when he did, his words were full of grace. He didn’t mind defining what was right and calling something wrong, but he never condemned anyone for something superficial, such as a political affiliation. He was always willing to give grace to those who desired it.
As followers of Jesus, we must remember that our job involves more than trying to tell the world how we should be defined. Instead, our primary task is to live among people as Jesus did, to treat people the way Jesus treated them, and to serve others the way Jesus served them.
Let’s make it our agenda to live in unity with each other as the family of God. When Jesus prayed for all those who would believe the gospel, he prayed that we “may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me” (John 17:21). Jesus essentially gave the world permission to judge the validity of his ministry by the unity of his people. Let that sink in.
Unity is not the same as uniformity. Our goal as members of God’s family isn’t to think, act, or vote the exact same way as everyone else. That’s uniformity. What Jesus called for is unity. As members of the same family of God, the heart cry of Jesus is for our focus to be on ONE Savior and ONE mission. That Savior has never been, nor will he ever be, found in a White House. That mission has never been anything other than to see people from all tribes and nations come into a relationship with God through Jesus Christ.
Some may believe that the differences between members of God’s kingdom are too vast to achieve unity. A casual scroll through Twitter or Facebook will give you the idea that there is no unity among God’s people. However, if you feel unity among God’s kingdom family is beyond reach, I encourage you to look at the disciples. Never will you find a group of people as politically diverse as that group, yet they experienced unity that enabled them to take the gospel to places it had never been.
Matthew, a Jew, was a tax collector. Other Jews would have despised him because he was employed by the enemy, the Roman government. In his role as tax collector, he would likely charge far more in taxes than the Roman government required, give the office of Caesar its share, and pocket the rest for his own gain.
Simon the Zealot was, well, a zealot. The Zealots were a Jewish sect known for their disdain of the Roman government and had every intention to rebel against Roman authority and rule. They didn’t desire a meek Messiah with grace for everyone; they wanted a mad Messiah who would overthrow the Roman government.
Here’s Matthew, a Jew who was helping the Roman government and being compensated for ripping off his fellow Jews. Here’s Simon, part of a group that despised Rome and Roman sympathizers. But in relationship with Jesus, these two men were transformed and were part of a group that experienced unity. How did that happen?
Jesus made the difference, and their relationship with Jesus provided that unity. The good news is that Jesus is able to do the same thing today. Will the people of God be willing to make Jesus and his mission the center of their lives? Will the family of God scattered around this nation and the world exalt Jesus and his mission above their own politics and preferences? If we’re willing to do so, I believe we’ll experience the kind of unity for which Jesus prayed.
Let’s make it our agenda to pray for the leaders God has placed over us. As followers of Jesus this world is not our home. Yet we are here for a season and for a purpose. There’s a reason God didn’t beam us up to heaven the moment we asked Jesus to be our Savior. We’re here to extend the mission of God on earth by being the hands and feet of Jesus. As citizens of God’s kingdom temporarily living on this earth, there are certain responsibilities we are to embrace. One of those involves praying for the people God has established to rule over us while we journey through this life on this earth.
Paul gives us the instruction “that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Tim. 2:1-4).
“Honor the emperor” was the command of God through Peter (1 Peter 2:17). Certainly, one of the ways we can honor our leaders is by praying for them. Peter wasn’t encouraging prayer for the emperor because they were best friends. In fact, Peter’s first letter was written during a time of intense persecution by the Roman emperor against Christians like Peter.
To pray for and to honor our leaders doesn’t mean that we should blindly follow the authority over us without considering the implications of doing so. This same apostle, Peter, said that we must obey God rather than man (Acts 5:29). However, we are never told to stop praying for those people God has allowed to lead us. We may not agree with the policy of a certain politician or the decision of a government agency, but our disagreement doesn’t excuse us from our responsibility to pray for them.
There are going to be times when our leaders make decisions with which we do not agree. And we should use the liberty afforded to us first and foremost by God, as well as our government, to voice our concerns. Let me encourage you to do something that I have committed to do myself in such a situation.
When the time comes to be critical of a decision made by a governing authority, be it the President, a governor, a mayor, city council, etc., I want to challenge you to pray for a specific need in the life of that leader. If, for example, you disagree with a foreign policy decision our President makes, voice your disagreement, but be sure you spend just as much time praying for his health or his family or his spiritual needs as you do in criticizing him.
James reminds us that the prayers of the righteous are powerful and effective (James 5:16). Can you imagine what might happen if the righteous people of God collectively and continually prayed for the leaders of our land at every level? I think we might see a movement of God.
Let’s make it our agenda, as people of God, to be salt and light in our city and community.
Let’s make it our agenda, as people of God, to live in unity with each other as the family of God.
Let’s make it our agenda, as people of God, to pray for the leaders God has placed over us.
If we’ll devote our lives to such purposes, surely God will use us, as the church collectively and as followers of Jesus individually, as a city set on a hill that points people to the one person who can change their eternity and give their lives a purpose that will outlive them. May it be so, and may it start with me.