Christians are Called to Honor Authority—No Matter Who's in Office | Opinion

We do not all agree. America's diversity of opinion, culture, background and faith seems odd, even impossible, to many around the world. As our country watched in horror the riots at our nation's capital, those in the Christian community should have reflected on the words the apostle Paul wrote to the Christians in Rome: "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" (Romans 13:1). I read that verse to some friends the weekend after the November election and asked a simple question: "Do you believe that is true?" Maybe the real question is, does our nation believe that is true?

We have every right as Americans to challenge, question, protest and speak. In our republic, the people are the authority that picks our authorities. We can and should express our opinions and stand for what we believe is good and right. But Christians also know that God has a plan for each person and He directs nations and leaders for a purpose. So, we honor authority. That is why Paul also wrote in 1 Timothy 2, "I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people—for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness." It's not about agreeing with everything every president says or does; it's about honoring God by honoring authority.

It's my privilege to serve on the board of Promise Keepers, a Christian ministry to men that calls them to build integrity by keeping seven promises. The fifth promise is about change-making: "A Promise Keeper understands that Jesus calls him to be His hands and feet, serving others with integrity. He purposely lifts up the leadership of the church and his nation in prayer."

There is a God who loves us, cares for us and has a plan for this world. Part of that plan involves using government to affect the culture. Sometimes government protects the church, and sometimes government challenges the church. But there's always a bigger Kingdom purpose and a plan that God is fulfilling in our lives, our families and our world.

We were not designed for government; we were designed for God. God created the family, work and government to accomplish something in us and through us. Government isn't our goal; it's a tool in the hands of God. Some leaders in the Old Testament were good and others were bad, but God used each of them to help people know Him and to know what it meant to live under His authority.

Capitol Hill
The early morning sun strikes the U.S. Capitol November 6, 2006 in Washington, DC. Midterm elections take place November 7, potentially changing the balance of power in the nation's capital. Win McNamee/Getty

Christians cannot say, "I will honor God, but I don't have to honor authority." That's inconsistent. The 10 Commandments call us, among other things, to love God and honor our fathers and mothers. We can't say, "I love God, but I'm not going to honor my parents." That would be a deliberate violation of the commandments of God.

In the same way, we can't say, "I'm going to honor God, but I'm going to dishonor government" because according to Romans 13:1, God has placed government there for a purpose and has called us to pray for and honor those in authority. Obviously, this wasn't easy for Paul or Peter either. They lived under Roman rule, and were ultimately executed for their faith. But they still challenged people to honor authority.

In fact, the apostle Peter issued a very deliberate challenge to Christians in 1 Peter 2, saying that since we're "foreigners and exiles" in this world, we should live such good lives that people would see us and glorify God. The very first example Peter gives to show how we can live good lives in this world is to honor authority: "Submit yourselves for the Lord's sake to every human authority" (1 Peter 2:13).

If we want to demonstrate how much of a difference God has made in our lives, we should do something exceedingly rare in our country today: honor authority.

When we respect and honor authority, when we pray for those in authority and when we silence foolish talk by doing good, we are in a position to be salt and light in our country and culture. So, wherever you are, whatever you're doing, take a moment right now to pray for president-elect Biden and all those in authority so that we might, as the Bible says, "live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness."

Senator James Lankford (R-OK) lives in Oklahoma City with his wife, Cindy. They have been married for more than 28 years and have two adult daughters. He serves on the board of Promise Keepers.

The views expressed in this article are the writer's own.