#NotMyCaesar? God’s Word Transcends Parties, Ideology, and Fear

Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme, or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good. For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people. Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God. Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor. 1 Peter 2:13-17

Elections often sprout angst, unrest, and degrees of emotional release. Donald J. Trump’s election as the Forty-Fifth President of the United States still feels different. We are in the midst of protests that have careened into riots and reports of intimidation and beatings. Frankly, we do not know precisely what is happening. The clutter of social media, the heated nature of other media coverage, and the venting from both sides makes it tough to see the terrain clearly. On top of this, people are responding to a Trump presidency well before Mr. Trump has become President.

The Word of God cuts through the fog of uncertainty. We already know how we, as believers, ought to respond to President-Elect Trump. We are commanded, not encouraged, to honor, respect, and pray for Donald J. Trump directly, and we are to obey the laws that come out of a Trump administration unless those laws compel us to sin. While President Trump is not officially our president, he is the president in waiting. We may as well get used to it.

What this means:

#NotMyPresident is ungodly. Somehow, Paul did not supply us with a #NotMyCaesar option. Besides, you do not get to designate your president at this point. God has already taken care of that for you.

Rioting against, railing about, and stoking strife regarding Trump more than suggests dishonor and disrespect. Of course, one might argue, Donald Trump is bigoted, repellant, disgraceful, and dangerous. (I am not arguing those things.) Again, do you think Tiberius, Nero, and Caligula might have fit those descriptions? Against that backdrop, Peter exhorted believers to “honor the emperor,” and Christ admonished us to render to Caesar as he was due. We do not honor and respect because the person occupying the office is personally worthy of respect. We honor and respect the person occupying the office because God has placed them in authority over us, for “this is the will of God.” This is equivalent to treating others better than they deserve in interpersonal situations. Honoring and respecting your leaders is roughly the political version of turning the other cheek or walking the extra mile. It is not a testament to the justice and goodness of the leader or the situation, but a testament to our allegiance to God and his transcendence of the regime.

For those who are fearful of what Trump might do, I get it. I join your trepidation. He very well might register Muslims, deport all illegal immigrants, and encourage ignorance and hostility. If he does those things, we have options. We should probably wait, however, until, you know, he actually does those things. Regardless, fear should not be our primary orientation to the political order. Our acknowledgment of God’s will should comfort us, even as we find ourselves beset by a complicated, or possibly even dangerous reality.

You need to pray for Donald Trump’s success whether you like him or not. Yes, we can argue about what “success” means, but in 1 Timothy 2, Paul tells Timothy to pray for all people, and “for kings and all who are in high positions.” He even tells Timothy the attitude of these prayers. They are made in supplication, which demands humility. They must be intercessory, which requires them to be in the place of another, not ourselves. They should be prayers of thanksgiving, for God has blessed us in spite of our current circumstances. We should humbly pray on behalf of Donald Trump and be thankful to God’s provision, for his will will be done, regardless of who occupies our earthly thrones.

What this does not mean:

None of this requires us to sublimely swallow whatever a Trump administration might do. We are able to disagree with and resist, as the system allows, Donald Trump’s actions. The American system is full of opportunities to show disagreement. It contains avenues for political, legislative, and judicial remedies when we are confronted by bad policies and bad laws. We should embrace those to their fullest extent as they are needed. However, we MUST utilize these methods while showing respect, honor, and obedience. In other words, we can disagree and respect at the same time. We can litigate and honor.

And, yes, this should be our attitude whether the president is a Republican or a Democrat. President Obama commands the same honor, respect, obedience, and prayer as President-Elect Trump. We cannot allow our partisan preferences to obscure our biblical commands, for those who demonstrated the same attitudes toward President Obama–dishonor, disrespect, and disobedience–deserve the same condemnation as those today who are refusing to extend basic, Christian courtesy to Mr. Trump.

Sound impossible? Sound odd? Sound like you might stick out? Welcome to the Christ-centered life.

15 thoughts on “#NotMyCaesar? God’s Word Transcends Parties, Ideology, and Fear”

  1. Excellent. This won’t be much of a challenge for most of the evangelical church, perhaps, but it will for the portion that’s deeply disturbed by the president-elect. Well put.

  2. Nice post….you can probably guess my favorite part:
    Besides, you do not get to designate your president at this point. God has already taken care of that for you.

    Well said.

  3. Christians kind of did say “not my caesar.” They refused to engage in the cult of emperor worship (i.e. the concept that the political power of the emperor was divinely ordained) and suffered because of it. They CHOSE to disobey and some died because of it. They were guilty of what we today call treason.

    We must not assume that the separation of church and state existed–that came later, under Augustine. By not engaging in emperor worship, Christians were considered as having rejected the political legitimacy of the emperor.

    There is no evidence from the TEXT of Romans 13 that it was intended to be used today. Paul was writing to the Romans in the late 50’s CE, and any claim that his commands are binding today must rely on unproven and unprovable assumptions that fall entirely outside of Scripture and fall instead within the realm of human reason.

    1. I am puzzled by this response. Dr. Smith specifically said “unless those laws compel us to sin” was the exception to obedience to Caesar. Since emperor worship would clearly be sinful for the Christian to engage in then the early church’s disobedience of Caesar in this matter does not seem to help your point. The Christians said “not my god”. They did not say “not my emperor”.

      Also, as to your comment on the validity of Romans… I will only say this. You can claim that Romans 13 is not binding and if you wish to disregard them, so be it. But in the absence of any evidence to the contrary, yes, I will assume those commands are binding and do my best to follow them.

  4. “But in the absence of any evidence to the contrary, yes, I will assume those commands are binding and do my best to follow them.”

    You are making assumptions without any evidence or commands from Scripture. Iow, your assumption does not come from Scripture. It is completely man-made. Just so you realize that…

    So all letter written to someone else at a far different time containing commands are therefore binding commands? Makes no sense.

    I don’t think you understand. Emperor worship WAS part of the political obligation. They cannot be separated. By choosing NOT to worship the emperor, Christians were considered as traitors for having rejected the political legitimacy. In other words, Christians were in a catch 22: it was impossible to obey Romans 13 AND John 14:6. Paul seems not to have known the political climate of his times. The author of Acts 5:29–possibly Luke–at least offered a position that makes more sense. No wonder the early church martyrs more consistently followed THAT passage instead of Romans 13.

    1. You can say “just so you realize it” all you want but that does not make it true nor will I ever “realize it”. You can simply repeat what you said above all you want, but it does make it so. I believe that Scripture is God’s word, inspired by Him, and that he used men to write it so that ALL could have it. The Bible did not come with an expiration date after which it was no longer valid or its commands binding. If you are truly a Christian, then, I am sorry, your position is the one that makes no sense.

      As for emperor worship… Is there some reason you cannot understand that it falls into the category “compelled to sin” and that therefore Dr. Smith nor any other serious Biblical scholar would conclude that a Christian was sinning by disobeying emperor worship? Is there? We say it but you act like you don’t hear it. Emperor worship does not invalidate any other political obligation, just that one. It matters not what the punishment for it was.

  5. “I believe that Scripture is God’s word, inspired by Him, and that he used men to write it so that ALL could have it..”

    Even if one accepts your take on God’s Word, there is still the unsolvable problem with using human reason to interpret it. The Bible does not interpret itself. Your interpretation is dependent on human reason. How do you know that you are interpreting it properly and accurately? Answer–you DON’T.

    “The Bible did not come with an expiration date after which it was no longer valid or its commands binding.”

    Are you saying that the Old and New Testament passages defending, justifying, and even commanding slavery are still binding? How about the OT Law? Jesus btw said it was binding. Do you follow ALL of the laws, even those against eating shellfish and working on the Sabbath? If not, then you are contradicting yourself by picking and choosing which verses you consider binding and which ones you don’t. And you are doing so with human reason.

    1. “Even if one accepts your take on God’s Word…”

      It may come as a shock to you, but tens of millions, and probably hundreds of millions, of Christians worldwide hold the same view of Scripture. It is not “my take” by any definition and is, in fact, the “Scriptural” view of “Scripture”.

      ” The Bible does not interpret itself. Your interpretation is dependent on human reason. How do you know that you are interpreting it properly and accurately? Answer–you DON’T.”

      Well, no actually, it’s not dependent on Human reason. When the Bible says “submit to the authorities” it does not take “reasoning” to decide “submit to the authorities” means “submit to the authorities”. There is nothing confusing about it that requires some sort of subjective interpretation, and yes, when done properly, we CAN know we have it right.

      “Are you saying that the Old and New Testament passages defending, justifying, and even commanding slavery are still binding? How about the OT Law? Jesus btw said it was binding. Do you follow ALL of the laws, even those against eating shellfish and working on the Sabbath? If not, then you are contradicting yourself by picking and choosing which verses you consider binding and which ones you don’t. And you are doing so with human reason.”

      Okay, I know you probably think this was a very clever answer and are patting yourself on the back for catching an ignorant, arrogant, rube in a contradiction but really it only demonstrates your own lack of reasoning. This is where true reasoning comes into play. For one thing there are no NT passages that actually command slavery. Some that provide guidelines for a master/slave relationship, yes, but certainly none that command it. Don’t know where you got that doosy. As for the OT law, the text of Scripture in the NT is clear that it is no longer binding insofar as those laws of the civil code of the nation of Israel. I would direct you to Paul’s involvement with the issue of circumcision. That was a binding OT law for the Jews, but Paul makes it clear that institution is not required for the church and that Jewish rituals are not binding on the Gentiles. The same goes for the cute little shellfish comment. You might want to read Acts 10 on that one. Most people are smart enough to use their Human reasoning to know that when I say “binding” and “no expiration date” that of course I mean those commands and instructions that are actually “in force” as of the beginning of the Church Age.

      1. “It may come as a shock to you, but tens of millions, and probably hundreds of millions, of Christians worldwide hold the same view of Scripture. It is not “my take” by any definition and is, in fact, the “Scriptural” view of “Scripture”.

        Jumping on the bandwagon logical fallacy. The number of people who accept something is irrelevant as to its veracity. Your logic fails miserably here.

        “Well, no actually, it’s not dependent on Human reason. When the Bible says “submit to the authorities” it does not take “reasoning” to decide “submit to the authorities” means “submit to the authorities”. There is nothing confusing about it that requires some sort of subjective interpretation, and yes, when done properly, we CAN know we have it right.”

        It most certainly DOES take human reason. It takes human reason to determine whether or not Romans is applicable to us today. More importantly, it takes human reason to figure out what Paul meant by “authorities.” The CONTEXT of Romans 13 suggests that “authorities” did not refer to Rome, but rather to the authorities in the Jewish synagogues. Read the previous chapters; the interpretation that Paul is speaking of political authority makes little sense. One just cannot take verses and completely divorce them from their context.

        Do you have any EVIDENCE from the TEXT of Scripture that Romans 13, which was not written to us but to new believers in Rome struggling with understanding the lines between Christianity and historic Judaism, is binding today? And, no, your subjective opinions does not count as evidence.

        “As for the OT law, the text of Scripture in the NT is clear that it is no longer binding insofar as those laws of the civil code of the nation of Israel.”

        Lol, no it is not clear. You are using your own reason–accepting the reasoning of others, probably–to make that determination. Rationalizing all the way, you are picking and choosing which verses to follow and which ones not to follow.

        Speaking of clear, I thought Jesus made it clear as could be when he said in Matthew 5
        “Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets. I have come not to abolish but to fulfill. Amen, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest part or the smallest part of a letter will pass from the law, until all things have taken place. “For truly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass the law until all is accomplished. Whoever then relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but he who does them and teaches them shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.”

        Has heaven or earth “passed away” yet? Clearly NOT. You are using your own reason to disobey a direct command of (the fully God) Jesus. Are you prepared to answer for that some day?

        Your “logic” fails. One more thing: Do you agree with Paul that slaves should obey their masters, even if their masters are cruel? Yes or no, please.

      2. I will let “puzzled” address what I don’t but a few thoughts:

        “Jumping on the bandwagon logical fallacy. The number of people who accept something is irrelevant as to its veracity. Your logic fails miserably here.”

        Sounds like what you believe about evolution based on past blog comments I’ve seen. Majority believing in evolution doesn’t make it true, yet you cite other ‘scientists’ opinions to try to support your claims. I’ll take God’s Word over human scientists capable of error. God is not.

        “It most certainly DOES take human reason.”

        As “puzzled” said, “submit to the authorities” means “submit to the authorities”. Is it your opinion that when reading a novel where the author says the sky was blue and the grass was green we are not able to take that at face value? Come on. You are the one making the assumption to claim that when the Bible says something straightforward it means something different.

        “You are using your own reason–accepting the reasoning of others, probably–to make that determination. Rationalizing all the way, you are picking and choosing which verses to follow and which ones not to follow.”

        This is exactly what you do all the time. You can’t deny it. What lets you claim that Genesis 1:1 or 2 Timothy 3:16 or 2 Peter 1:21 aren’t meant to be taken literally or that those words don’t apply to us today yet claim anything else is. Your Biblical foundation is very weak. How can you claim that and expect others to believe you when you cite other verses you think should apply to us today. You are the one as you said so eloquently “picking and choosing which verses to follow and which ones not to follow.”

        “Do you agree with Paul that slaves should obey their masters, even if their masters are cruel? Yes or no, please”

        I know this question was not asked to me, and I figure “puzzled” will answer as well, but you have answered questions on this blog not asked to you before so, the short answer: Yes.

        The bottom line is you break your own rules for how we should interpret the Bible. Why should you impose those rules on others then?

      3. Yeah, you know what, this discussion is only devolving into repeating refrains of the same thing said over and over only in different ways so this is my final word on this matter. Your disregard for the authority of Scripture saddens me greatly. To answer the question “Are you prepared…?”; I am a sinner and have of course disobeyed God. However, I am confident I have not been disobedient to God in the matter over which you accuse me. If I have erred, which I do not believe I have, I am fully prepared to one day stand before God because Jesus Christ has already paid the price for my sins, past, present, and future. But, you WILL NOT succeed in bullying me into a situation in which I am forced to choose between accepting your position or admitting I am knowingly being disobedient to God. To answer your other question; “Do you agree with Paul that slaves should obey their masters, even if their masters are cruel? Yes or no, please.” Yes. If you want to know why, read 1 Peter 2:18-25. And no, it is not an endorsement of slavery as a political or social institution in anyway.

        Have a pleasant day, Mr. Adams.

      4. Addendum:
        On the subject of the OT law; I am sorry, you can “lol” all you want to, but yes, the NT teaching on this is very clear.

        In Acts 10, through His vision to Peter, God uses the abolishing of the OT dietary laws to represent to Peter, and the Jews, that the gospel is open to the Gentiles. Do not call unclean what God has called clean.
        Romans 7:1-6 tells us that Christ’s sacrifice released us from the law.
        Galatians 3:10-14 says that cursed be everyone who does not abide by all things written in the Book of the Law. Then it says that Christ redeemed us from the law by becoming cursed.
        Galatians 3:23-25 says that before faith came we were captives under the law and that the law was our guardian. Christ came so that we are justified by faith and that now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian.
        Ephesians 2:14-16 tells us that Jesus, through the cross, abolished the law of commandments expressed in ordinances.

        So, as all this relates to Matthew 5, the law has most certainly not passed away. But Jesus’s sacrifice, has, for the Christian, changed the relationship between man and God so that the Christian is no longer bound by the rituals and ordinances of the OT Jewish law.

        So, when then is the Christian bound by? Well, the NT has plenty to say on that but unfortunately, there is no time to go into this on a blog. Suffice it to say that no Christian who has eaten a clam or oyster dinner has anything to fear from God.

        Pleasant day to all.

  6. I like the perspective that this post provides… “We cannot allow our partisan preferences to obscure our biblical commands.” We still are commanded to obey government as long as it does not lead us astray to sin, no matter who our president might be.

  7. Great post! I agree that social media and other media outlets have clouded our vision, but God’s word helps us to see clearly. I think that it is ridiculous that people are protesting before Trump has had the chance to enact any of the things they are protesting.

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