For those of us who live in the United States of America, our president is Barack Obama, the forty-fourth president of the United States. To say our president is a polarizing figure is an understatement. People have very strong opinions about their president. Significantly, therefore, children and young people will have very strong opinions about their president. Learning from adults, many children and young people idolize their president as the greatest man who has ever lived. Learning from adults, other children and young people think that our president is the scum of the whole earth, and they are not afraid to say so. It is vitally important therefore that our children and young people are not only influenced properly by their parents, but that they view their president according to the dictates of God’s word. The Bible teaches us how to view our president, regardless if his name is George, Abraham, or Barack, regardless of which political party he represents, and even regardless of the particular view of our own parents. As the supreme authority for all of life, the Bible says, “Honor your President!”
The President holds an office. Just as your father or grandfather might hold the office of minister, elder, or deacon, the president holds an office. That means he has been given a position of authority by God and has the rule over us. We must honor that officebearer. We are not now considering a man as a husband or a father, as a black man, as a Chicago White Sox fan, or as a graduate of Harvard. We are considering a man as president, one who holds the highest office of authority in the civil state to which we belong. Mr. Obama must receive our honor as president. That we honor him means we show in our attitude (what we think), behavior (what we do), and words (what we say) that we respect him. We view him as above. We view ourselves as under.
Demonstrating this requirement from Scripture is not difficult. 1 Peter 2:13–14 states: “Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake, whether it be to the king as supreme; Or governors, as unto them that are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers, and for the praise of them that do well,” and verse 17 adds, “Honor all men. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the king”. The inspired apostle Peter exhorts, “Submit to and honor the president!” 1 Timothy 2:1–2 instructs, “I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; For kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty.” If we must pray for the president, certainly we must first honor him. The inspired apostle Paul exhorts, “Honor, even pray for the president!” Romans 13:1–2, part of a long explanation of our duties toward the civil state, states, “Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God. Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God, and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation.” Verse 5 continues, “Wherefore ye must needs be subject, not only for wrath, but also for conscience sake.” The inspired apostle Paul commands, “Be subject to! Every one of you, be subject to the president!” Finally, the fifth commandment of God’s holy law as explained in Lord’s Day 39 of the Heidelberg Catechism requires “that I show all honor, love, and fidelity to my father and mother and all in authority over me, and submit myself….”
The clear commands of scripture are powerful, but we are really given pause when we consider the historical context in which they were written. When the Spirit inspired Peter to write, “Honor the king,” and Paul to write, “Pray for the king,” and “Submit to the king,” the king was not a man like that small, Midwestern town mayor who still attends a church with his family, scoops ice cream at the county fair, twists the neighborhood rascal’s ear when he swears, and weeds his own garden. The kings during the days in which the New Testament was written were the Caesars of Rome, most notably Nero. Few men were more evil than the Caesars. The Caesar said, “I am god, worship me.” When Christians refused they were slaughtered. The Caesar not only indulged openly in every immorality, but would also slay his own blood relatives to protect his throne. Historical types of the antichrist were the Caesars of Rome. Son of Belial was Caesar if Belial ever had a son. The Bible says, “Honor him! Pray for him! Submit to him!” Surely Mr. Obama must be honored by us.
It is easy to honor the king when we have a president who thinks and acts somewhat like we do. We have had some presidents who were fairly conservative in their core values. Respecting them is easier. It is much more difficult to respect a president who is more openly unbiblical in his worldview. Mr. Barack Obama is a foolish man. I may say that. Respectfully I may say that. The whole book of Proverbs tells me so. Our president publically supports behaviors that God condemns as wicked. For example, our president supports the slaughter of unborn infants and sodomy, both of which God hates and condemns. The president, in executing his office, does many things that we Reformed Christians deem foolish. Nevertheless, God says, “Honor your president.”
Some (even Christians) think the foolishness of a president gives them license to disrespect him. They mock him. They make disrespectful jokes about the president. They draw pictures and cartoons of the president, making him look like an imbecile, so that people will laugh and jeer. They use the internet to unleash verbal tirades against the president. Others would like to do even worse by leading a revolt to overthrow him or assassinate him. The president is dishonored and disrespected. Some of the things our president says and does as our leader are embarrassing. Some of the things our fellow (sometimes Christian) citizens say and do in response to the president’s actions are even more embarrassing.
Certainly we may criticize the president and his policies and point out the folly of them, but there is a fine line between respectfully criticizing him and mocking him in disrespect. We may even disobey the president. If the president commands, “Bow down and worship me” though God says, “Worship me alone,” then we have to disobey the president, for “we ought to obey God rather than men,” (Acts 5:29). We may have to disobey the president, but we may not dishonor him. Though it may be difficult, the word of God says, “Honor your president.”
Contemplating our calling—a sometimes difficult calling—we must remember three truths. First, we are to honor the president for God’s sake. God gave Mr. Obama his authority. When you look up and see the president in a position of authority above you, see God beyond him. Even if the president says, “God did not make me president, the people did by voting for me,” God did make him president, and 1 Peter 2:13 calls us to honor the president for the Lord’s sake. We show our love for God, our obedience to God, and we glorify the name of God by honoring the president. The man who dishonors the president cares little about the Lord God. For the Lord’s sake honor your president. How marvelously beautiful is the display of the almighty power of the Holy Spirit of Christ when the members of the church honor a president who may even be wicked and opposed to them! For the Lord’s sake honor the president.
Second, we ought to be very thankful for the many freedoms we still have. 1 Timothy 2:2 instructs us to pray for the president so that through his rule we may be provided quietness and a peaceable life as churches. Thus far God has continued to give that peace to us in America. It will not last. Many in the world do not have this peace. We do. Let us not dishonor the president but pray for him and be thankful that God continues to rule through him in such a way that we are able to assemble freely for worship and work here as citizens of the kingdom heaven.
Third, we must always remember that Jesus Christ reigns supreme. Mr. Obama is a ruler. Jesus is the ruler. Jesus died for our sins, arose from the grave and ascended into heaven. Now that Savior of us controls the whole world as he sits not in the White House, but at God’s right hand. We have no reason to fear. God “hath put all things under his feet and given him to be the head over all things to the church,” (Eph. 1:22). Our president is under the feet of the one who died for us. Our president cannot open his mouth apart from the will of King Jesus. Are you scared of certain policies, the thought of war, or the advances of sodomy? All things are under the feet of Jesus for the church’s sake. King Jesus is directing all things for his triumphant return. Until he returns we will honor our president for his sake.