To begin by stating the obvious, Donald Trump is a polarizing person.
The new President was a particular point of polarization for American evangelicals throughout the presidential election campaigns. Evangelicals of the #NeverTrump variety appeared more likely to vote for the anti-Christ than for president Trump in the recent election, while others seemed ready to wave proverbial palm branches at his pseudo-Messianic arrival to the oval office, trusting his pledge to make their American kingdom great again.
Not quite fitting in with the Trump haters or the Trump supporters, there have been others who value the grievances of the Trump opposition while empathizing with certain points of those favorable to his presidency. This group sees, for instance, the danger of empowering a man who has a proven track record of public, unapologetic immorality, with the office and power of the presidency. On the other hand, they are more ready to face enduring Trump’s notorious manifestations of depravity rather than those displayed by far-left (or further left) political leaders like Hilary Clinton.
So what are all these divided evangelicals supposed to do on President’s Day? The Apostle Paul gave us the answer to that question over 2000 years ago.
“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, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time.” (1 Timothy 2:1-6, ESV)
Pray. On this Presidents Day, all evangelicals should be praying for President Trump. Paul gives us two reasons for this:
1. So we can freely live like Jesus.
As Paul put it in the text above, “That we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way.”
To varying degrees, human rulers have the ability to restrict or promote our freedom to publicly and peacefully live out our Christian faith and relationship with Jesus. In Paul’s day, the rulers of society, and the average citizen in the places where he was ministering, were not exactly pro-Jesus. This text was written to Paul’s ministry partner, Timothy, while he was serving as a pastor of the church in Ephesus. Paul was well acquainted with Ephesus. It was in this city that, in response to the effectiveness of his gospel ministry, Paul faced the opposition of an angry mob. (See Acts 19:21-41) They protested him and his gospel violently and tried to get the rulers to throw him out of the city.
Now, what was Paul’s exhortation to Timothy again? “Pray…for kings and all who are in high positions.”
Paul had seen His God use rulers in an otherwise anti-gospel city to preserve his life and restrain the anti-gospel opposition of the city’s masses. He knew that God would be faithful to do for Timothy and the other believers in Ephesus what he had seen Him do on his behalf.
Paul knew that the key to the believers in Ephesus being able to openly live their faith had everything to do with God doing in the hearts of men what only He can do. He didn’t call on the Ephesian church to organize their own angry political mob of protest, or to take to social media to blast the character of influential businessmen and leaders in hopes of gaining a political or social foothold. No, he told them to petition the greater throne of heaven to act on their behalf in the hearts and courts of the rule of men.
2. So we can freely preach the gospel.
According to Paul, why is it so important that believers are able to freely and publicly live out their faith?
Check out 1 Timothy 2:3-6 again:
“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. For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time” (ESV).
God desires all men to be saved. He desires this so much that He sent His Son to die for the sins of all men. Through faith in Jesus, it is possible for any person to be forgiven of their sin, made alive spiritually and welcomed as a child of God forever. This is the gospel “testimony” of the New Testament church.
All of this is why it is pleasing to God when Christians pray for their rulers. When Christians are able to live their faith freely, they have abundantly more opportunity to engage in gospel ministry within their communities. This is why we pray for all of our leaders, not merely those we voted for, or with whom we agree.
America’s history has proven the effectiveness of Paul’s approach to dealing with the potential of politically imposed restraints on the church’s ability to live and preach the gospel. For more than two centuries American Christians have been free to practice their faith because our rulers have been favorable to that liberty. As a result, some surveys put the number of American evangelicals at nearly one hundred million. Additionally, American missionaries have been extremely crucial in the spread of the gospel throughout the rest of the world. And yet, today many evangelicals perceive the threat of losing their ability to live and proclaim the gospel as freely as the church has been able to do in our country throughout the past two centuries.
So, what will we do on this President’s Day, 2017? Will we follow the example of the pagan Ephesians and stage another angry protest? Will we take to social media to put one more exclamation point on our statement of opposition or admiration for President Trump? Or, as Paul did to the church in the first century, will we sound an ongoing call to prayer?
I believe the exaltation of Jesus in every nation starts with the exaltation of Jesus in the prayers of His people. Let me confess that in every area of life I am much quicker to react and have an opinion than I am to pray. I do not write this post as an amazing, pious pastor who has his politics and prayer priorities in perfect order. I do not. But I know that past mistakes do not negate the opportunity to do present good. Today, in spite of our hesitations and uncertainties about President Trump, my family will be praying for him. This is how we will fight for the freedom to live and preach our faith in our country. This is how we will choose to bring pleasure to the heart of our God.