In November of 2016, one of the best things ever happened to this country. To all but the faithful and die-hard, it was unexpected. It was a battle to the very end and uplifted our nation. The Chicago Cubs won their first World Series in 108 years!
The greatest victory in the history of professional team sports aside, November of 2016 also brought great tumult nationally. Donald Trump’s victory was also a surprise to many Americans and caused as much despair as it did elation across this country. 2020 has been all the more angst-ridden, amplified by COVID, racial conflict, and other deep, societal pains.
Part of my job involves working with government officials and civic leaders. Perhaps this is why I was much more attentive and concerned about local elections and ballot measures. The officials whom we elect and the laws we approve shape how we live in this city, in this state.
As a private citizen (not as a representative of my employer), I invested time and energy in helping a couple of local candidates running for elected office. I attended countless virtual community meetings, fundraisers, and even hosted two debates for two local political races. I prayed for their victory. Without going into detail, the local election did not go the way I wished. How am I supposed to move forward?
Well, the Bible provides answers:
The Lord appoints kings and queens, presidents, and even district supervisors
Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves.
- Romans 13:1-2
This is a hard passage to swallow when we think about leaders we don’t like or even despise. But why then, does God allow such leaders to be in authority? My beliefs and convictions about civic leadership are shaped by my upbringing, my education, and my life experiences, just like everyone else. There are almost as many people displeased with the election outcome as there are who are glad about it. But, we had an election and the victors will assume office in January. In turn, I need to intercede for these leaders, praying for them, that they would exercise great wisdom and hear the Lord’s voice in their daily work. So, my job is to pray, to continue to be involved in my community. What does the Lord expect of our leaders?
God will hold leaders accountable
Have confidence in your leaders and submit to their authority because they keep watch over you as those who must give an account. Do this so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no benefit to you.
- Hebrews 13:7
When your decisions impact a population, the Bible is clear - leaders will be called to account for their actions. On this earth it’s called “being on the right side of history” but when we face our Maker we will stand in judgment for our actions.
Our role as followers of Jesus
Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human authority: whether to the emperor, as the supreme authority, 14 or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right.
- 1Peter 2:13-14
What does this mean for us? In verse 13, the Apostle Peter uses the word “submit.” As a recovering Latin nerd, I can tell you that this word means “to put under.” It is an act of volition. Let me say that the last two presidents, Obama and Trump, represented two different types of politics and personas. Their leadership steered our country in wildly different directions; this is invariably true for every President. I hope you prayed for both of them as we should of our next president. Without publicly stating my personal stance, let me say I did not vote for a few candidates who won the Oval Office in my lifetime - but they were still my president. In this country, we have an election. Someone wins, someone loses. Then we move forward, we submit, and we pray. I commit to praying for President-elect Biden, Governor Newsom, Mayor Breed, and the cavalcade of State Senators, District Supervisors, and the like.
This World is not Our Home, but ...
But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare. For thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel.
- Jeremiah 29:7-8 ESV
As a Chicago native, I used to joke with my wife that I often felt like an Israelite sitting in the Babylon of what’s now called Oracle Park (I confess I did not always pray for the Giants to win). Jest aside, as perhaps many of you who moved to SF from elsewhere, I did feel like a foreigner thrown into the deep end of a culture I did not understand, especially the politics. However, in the course of my professional work, I have met and befriended people who are so different from me. From afar it was convenient to write them off as “nuts,” but they, too, had deep personal convictions as I did. But I have come to love this city and the people in it. As followers of Christ, we are citizens of Heaven, the kingdom of our Heavenly Father. Our redeemed selves often struggle in this fallen world, but scripture is clear about our time on earth: “in its welfare, you will find your welfare” (Jeremiah 29:7b)
God bless San Francisco and God bless America.
- written December of 2020