Should True Christians Insult Their Governments’ Leaders?
Eric Snow, Men’s club speech, December 14, 2008, Ann Arbor, MI, UCG
Should true Christians pray for Barack Obama after he becomes president next year? Should Christians pray more for George W. Bush because they may like his policies better than for Obama? Because we may disagree with him more, are we allowed to insult and to condemn Obama more than Bush? In general, does God allow Christians to ridicule and to insult their nations’ political leaders without restraint?
Although Christians may believe the policies or personal lifestyle of their governments’ leaders to be wrong, we should avoid constantly, casually insulting them. We should also obey the laws that they pass that don’t contradict God’s laws.
S.P.S. True Christians should normally obey their human governments’ laws and generally respect and honor their governments’ leaders even when they have immoral beliefs and lifestyles.
During and after the elections last month, people in the Church of God had strong feelings about who won and why. However, that doesn’t mean we have the right to insult and ridicule personally our new national leaders. It’s fine to say this or that policy or law might be wrong based on what the Bible says. But we should learn to avoid generally personal attacks on the president, governors, senators, etc.
Keep in mind Paul wrote this when Nero was emperor. This man lived a terrible personal lifestyle. Among other actions, he had his own mother murdered. He had his first wife murdered after he fell in love with another man’s wife. He also had Christians killed as scapegoats after the fire that burned down much of Rome was blamed on him in 64 A.D. Indeed, this government imprisoned and years later killed Paul as well. Yet Paul said Christians should obey it and honor its officials!
Basic principle: Obey the laws of the land so long as they don’t contradict God’s law. So then, how well are we doing at obeying the speed limit? How well do we obey other traffic laws? Are we paying all the taxes we should, including on cash income that we won’t receive a W-2 form for?
Paul was punished, then insulted the high priest back in retaliation, but then admitted his error. “Curse” is the word for “speak evil” in the Old Testament original.
Practical application: The junior senator from New York and the future secretary of state should not be insulted as a “witch” or by a word that rhymes with it that starts with a “b.” Similarly, do we feel the need to make sex jokes about her husband’s behavior each time we mention his name? Suppose we have family members, friends, and/or co-workers who were living sexually immoral lives or had other deep moral flaws. Do we feel the need to mention their sins or character flaws every time we mention their names to others? Or do we normally say nothing about those problems unless some direct, huge issue relevant to their bad behavior comes up
Nebuchadnezzar was about to try to kill Daniel’s three friends, but they didn’t insult him personally. Key point: They stood firm on principles, but treated the king respectfully.
Christians need to find the right balance between respecting our human governments’ laws and leaders and preaching an undiluted Gospel and warning message to the world. In Canada already, free speech has largely ended when it comes to strong public criticisms of the gay lifestyle and radical Islam. They call the truth “hate speech.” We should pray that under President Obama that similar laws won’t be passed by Congress, or state and local governments, and then upheld by the courts.
Jeremiah vs. Zedekiah over obeying Babylon’s government (Jer. 32:2-5) & John the Baptist vs. Herod’s marriage of Herodias and his other sins (Luke 3:19). Both got imprisoned for criticizing their governmental leaders. Hence, we shouldn’t think that we should never criticize our government leaders’ immoral actions or bad policies. Here we need to have some balance. But constantly insulting our national leaders is obviously wrong also.
We should pray our national governments granting us an open door to preach the Gospel. It could close some with “hate speech” laws that ban criticisms of radical Islam and the gay lifestyle. Would we have the bravery to preach the Gospel undiluted, just as we do now, if the American government banned criticisms of either group?
Conclusion: True Christians should normally obey their human governments and not insult the leaders of those governments. But if those governments order us to violate God’s law, we should respectfully but firmly refuse to obey them. We need to have a balance in respecting and honoring the leaders of our nations while also preaching an undiluted Gospel that may anger them when it contradicts their beliefs and their laws. So let’s learn to avoid making casual personal insults about our nations’ leaders, even when they make laws that are wrong.