This might be one of the toughest blogs I’ve written to date. It’s sure to elicit strong opinions, especially with the current heightened state of government distrust. But, that isn’t why it was tough to write. It was tough to write because it’s not always easy for me to do what the Bible says. It’s double tough when it forces me to swallow my pride and put away many of my personal opinions.
I’m sure some of the brethren will read this and immediately call me an Obama sympathizer, moderate, or worse – a liberal. I assure you I’m a red-blooded American patriot who’s probably more conservative than you are. But, above that I’d rather be biblical. I want to think biblically about everything. I want the gospel to shape my thoughts and feelings.
As I mentioned, the country is in an uproar over the government shutdown. It’s frustrating. As an avid hiker I’ve fought for a couple of months to get a weekend off to go hit the trails with my family in our beloved Great Smoky Mountains National Park, but barring a resolution, we’ll have to make other plans. I heard from one friend who’d been planning a family Grand Canyon get away for three years, and now it looks like it won’t happen. Countless men and women are on forced unpaid furlough. Many have lost faith in our government’s ability to govern.
Because of this, and with Obama being the figurehead of our government and our country, many have made him the object of their frustration. This includes many Christians. My Facebook and Twitter feeds have generally been anti-Obama all day long for several days. It isn’t to say he’s without blame, because as president he shoulders the majority of the state of our nation.
I personally cannot take the “bash Obama” route. I am convinced it’s not a very good witness. I’m not sure it’s very missional, nor does it further the gospel. That’s why I decided to take a different perspective of Obama. I hope you will after reading this.
He’s human. Because he’s a man, flesh and blood just like me – created in the image of God – I am bound to love him. Let that sink in. My prayers for him are worthless if I don’t love the man for whom I’m praying. I could easily apply this to most anyone: crack whores, perverts, child abusers, and other assorted “unlovables.” We must remember that everyone may not be the same race as us, have the same upbringing, be a part of the same political persuasion, but we are bound to love that which God has created, particularly our fellow man.
Loving him doesn’t mean I have to agree with his policies, because for the most part I don‘t. Loving him isn’t an endorsement of his political, social, or religious views. I’m sure he struggles with the same things we all do, if not more. He tries; he fails. He tries to be a good father. He argues with his wife. He sins. He grieves and he rejoices, the same as you or me. We would do well to concentrate less on what we abhor about him and his policies, and center on the basic common denominator we all have: we are God’s image-bearers. God loves those made in his image. How can I not?
He’s my neighbor. When an “expert in the law” asked Jesus, “Who is my neighbor?” (Luke 10:29), Jesus, as he often did, answered with a parable. He told the story of two men who couldn’t have been more different: a Levitical priest, and a Samaritan. Both passed by a man who’d been attacked, robbed, and left for dead. The Levite, not wanting to “soil” himself, simply walked to the other side of the road, kept going, and pretended he didn’t see anything. The Samaritan, an unclean, unworthy half-breed to the Jews, saw the man and rescued him.
Here’s how Jesus ended the parable:
“Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”
The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.”
Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”
Jesus tells us to love our neighbor as our self (Matthew 22:37). Our neighbor, in case you haven’t figured it out, is the whole of humanity. That makes Obama is my neighbor. Jesus said the true neighbor is the one who shows mercy. Are we showing mercy to Obama when we bash him all over the social media scene? It’s time we reconsider our unrelenting criticism of him. Before posting that “Obama is the Antichrist!” status or sharing that “Obama is comparable to Hitler!” meme, think about what you’re really doing and saying. Can we truly love our neighbor, as Jesus said we must, by comparing him to a murderer, killer, tyrant, etc?
I think not.
He’s my enemy. Obama is not my personal enemy. I obviously do not know him personally. But, he is an enemy of much of what I hold dear. His worldview is much different from my own in many ways. For instance, it hurts me to think that he is a supporter of infant murder. If not a supporter, then he is surely an endorser. He and his administration allows it, he has not sought to abolish this inhumane and sinful practice. He supports legislation and organizations that practice and promote abortion. He claims to be a Christian, but many of his policies are very un-Christlike. I haven’t seen anything that would convince me that he is a brother in Christ.
In this regard, I’d consider him an enemy. Not a personal enemy mind you, but an enemy to the values and beliefs I hold dear. But, does that give me the right to tear him down, demean him, and slander him, just because he has a different worldview than me? No, it does not. Again, we turn to God for answers on how to deal with the dilemma:
“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:43-45).
What good is it if we only those with whom we agree? If we regard Obama as an enemy, if his polices rile us all up and are plunging the country into darkness, we still must love him. Ouch!
He’s my friend. It may appear to be contradictory to call someone a enemy and then call him a friend. I don’t believe Obama is the embodiment of Pure Evil as some of my friends do. On a personal level, we share the joys and downfalls of marriage, raising kids, jockeying for privacy and family time, trying to be a good father, husband, and steady and believable leader. I imagine his situation is magnified about a million times from my own. Politically, we share similar views on preserving our national parks and environment, immigration, and I personally thought his “beer summit” in 2009 was a stroke of genius.
If I met Obama I’d be in awe of his position; he is after all the Leader of the Free World. I imagine if I had the opportunity to sit down with him, I’d find a man very similar to myself even if we hold different views on a great many things. I’m sure he and I could find some common ground. And you know what? I’ll wager that by listening to him, learning from him, and respecting him would open more doors to share the gospel than if we concentrated only on issues, policies, and philosophies where we differ.
He’s my president. Obama is my president. If you live in the United States he’s your president too. Because of this, we are obligated and commanded to pray earnestly for him:
“First of all, then, I urge 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” (1 Timothy 2:1-3).
“Fear God. Honor the emperor” (1 Peter 2:17).
Many of my brethren, it seems, would like to see Obama fail. In a perverse way, I think many Christians would like to see the country plunged into utter darkness and anarchy because of Obama, just so they could justify their dislike and/or hatred of him. That’s not very Christian. I can’t find a verse in all the Bible that says anything other than to pray for and honor Obama. Like him or not, he’s the president and he has an entire nation on his shoulders. We are entitled to our opinion about him and we have the freedom to share it, but that doesn’t mean we should. For every threat and warning and “sounding of the alarm” about Obama, wouldn’t it be nice to change them to prayers for him? Is that too much to ask since it’s expected of Christ’s followers?
The gospel demands that I love Obama, not hate him. It doesn’t demand that I agree with him, endorse him, or support him, but it does demand that I love him genuinely. There is no option #2 in the matter. We are to love him, and by loving him we’ll cease to unjustly and mean-spiritedly criticize him, slander him, and demean him; we will begin to pray for him. We cannot be obedient, gospel-centered Christians and do anything but.
Roger Upton lives with his wife and 2 children in Gaffney, South Carolina. He is the lead planter and pastor for preaching at New City Church, a church plant in Gaffney. In his spare time he loves to hike, play guitar, read theology, and about a million other things.