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Election season is upon us! We actually just had national elections in New Zealand, and political campaigns in the USA are ramping up for this November’s mid-term elections. As these things happen, everyone becomes a little more opinionated.

1 Peter 2:17 has something interesting to say about politics, “Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor.”

Official_portrait_of_Barack_ObamaIn the USA, there is obviously no Emperor, but if Peter were writing to Americans the last phrase would say “Honor the President.” Most Christians think it’s a good idea to honor people, love the brotherhood, and fear God. None of us are perfect, but we’ll at least try.

When it comes to honoring our leader, however, I think we often fall short. America today has become extremely polarized politically. It seems like there are two groups over the last decade: Those who hated Bush and those who hate Obama. Now, most Christians wouldn’t say they “hate” either of them, but their actions and comments tell a different story.

There is a joke in the South: you can say anything you want about someone, as long as it’s followed by “bless his/her heart.” For instance, a woman might say, “That boy is completely lazy and throwing his life away, bless his heart.” In Christian politics, I think we have a similar rule. We call him liar, snake, tyrant, or even the antichrist and then follow it up with “you don’t have to like the man, but you must respect the office.”

But is calling someone a liar and a snake and a evil tyrant really respecting the office? Is this what God meant when He called us to honor the Emperor?

You might argue back, “but we have (or have had) a really bad president! How am I supposed to honor him?!”

Just to be clear, I’m writing to both sides of the political spectrum. I know Christian democrats and republicans, and both can make the mistake of despising the President. As bad as you might think whoever the leader of your country is (if you don’t today, you might in 5 years), he or she is nothing compared to the Emperor during the time of Peter’s letter writing. In fact, there are several leaders in the Bible who did not deserve honor, but God calls his people to show them honor anyway.

The Crazy “Emperors” of the Bible

1) Emperor Nero: Peter wrote his letter, from Rome, during the reign of crazy Emperor Nero. That’s right, this is the same Emperor Nero who had already murdered his mother and wife, lived a hedonistic lifestyle, and would eventually be blamed for torching 75% of Rome. His response to the accusations? Blame the Christians. He then killed hundreds, if not thousands of believers. His favorite method was lighting them on fire and using them as torches in the city at night.

So when Peter calls us to honor the emperor, he wasn’t referring to a benevolent leader who cared for his people. The Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky scandal had nothing on Nero’s antics, but still, Peter called the people to honor him.

2) King Saul: The first anointed king of Israel was not good. He repeatedly broke the Lord’s commands and wanted to destroy his most faithful servant: David. In fairness to Saul, God did anoint David to take his place as King, but David never lifted a finger against Saul. The King repeatedly tried to kill David, even going to a witch and killing priests who had helped protect the future king.

David had Saul within his grasp. He could have easily killed him and put an end to the madness, and taken his place as King. But instead, David spared his life. When Saul came after David again, he found himself in a similar position, and again David spared Saul’s life. David explained his reason for this: “The Lord forbid that I should put out my hand against the Lord‘s anointed.

3) King Nebuchadnezzar: Aside from having the craziest name in the Bible, Nebuchadnezzar is also famous for absolutely destroying Jerusalem. He then brought hundreds of thousands of exiles back with him to Babylon, including the now famous Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. At one point he promises to kill all of his advisors because of a bad dream, and later he actually throws Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego into a fiery furnace because they won’t worship his golden statue (they survive by a miracle).

Despite all this, when Daniel is asked to interpret a dream that will bring judgment upon the King, Daniel does not revel in it. He doesn’t say, “I knew you had this coming! You destroyed my home and tried to kill my friends. Now you’re going to get what you deserve.” Instead, Daniel was actually “dismayed.” Daniel begins the judgment on the King by saying, “My lord, may the dream be for those who hate you and its interpretation for your enemies!

Daniel demonstrates a sincere love for the King. He finishes the interpretation of the dream by saying, “Therefore, O king, let my counsel be acceptable to you: break off your sins by practicing righteousness, and your iniquities by showing mercy to the oppressed, that there may perhaps be a lengthening of your prosperity.

Daniel doesn’t want the King’s destruction, but rather his redemption.

How we can “Honor the Emperor”

The Bible is clear – we should honor our leaders. But how do we do it? How can you lift up a man or woman you completely disagree with? Again, the bible offers some good suggestions:

1) Pray for your leader: 1 Timothy 2:1-2 says, “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 one is simple – prayer makes a true difference. I often wonder how our leaders would be different if every Christian prayed for their leader everyday. Not only would it have a positive impact on our leaders, but also on our own life and the nations we live in as well.

2) Desire their redemption: I love Daniel’s example so much. There is a genuine care for the King, and Daniel doesn’t want to see harm come to the King. Instead, he hopes Nebuchadnezzar wil repent and worship the Lord. Paul had a similar approach with the leaders of the Roman empire. In Acts 26 he shares the gospel with King Agrippa, who responds, “In a short time would you persuade me to be a Christian?” And Paul said, “Whether short or long, I would to God that not only you but also all who hear me this day might become such as I am.” 

3) Speak well of them: David never refers to Saul as “that idiot psychopath who will ruin my life.” Instead, he calls him the “Lord’s anointed.” All rulers are established by God, and because of that, they deserve our respect. Next time you feel the need to rant about your leader, look to David’s example instead.


Do you have to agree with everything a leader does? Of course not. You can even ask him to change his ways or policies (like Daniel). But we must do all things in a way that honors and respects them.

Your turn: There are, of course, other ways you can honor your leaders. What would you suggest?

I think sometimes we like to believe the world is basically a good place filled with good people. The Bible tells a different story: “For all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” In Western Culture, we forget how bad sin can really be. But for our Christian brothers and sisters in Northern Iraq right now, they must literally flee for their lives because of sin’s cruelty.

A growing group of militants who call themselves the Islamic State (IS) and used to call themselves the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) have been making the news recently for beheading children, raping and murdering women, enslaving or killing men, and seeking to wipe out entire people groups. This is mass genocide and it is a terrible tragedy.

Large populations of Christians are being killed. Another religious group, called the Yazidis, are also being wiped out. Many have three choices: Convert to Islam, die, or flee. There is plenty of news coverage on this, and you’ve probably seen how horrific it is. I’ve been torn up for the last couple days thinking about this terrible persecution. I want to help make a difference, but I wasn’t exactly sure how for two reasons.

First, I struggle with global news because It is filled with problems occurring on the other side of the world, and frankly, I can’t really do much about them. And yet, when a group like ISIS is at large we simply cannot just sit around and do nothing.

Secondly, when I read these stories, my first thought is that we need to bomb these monsters into oblivion. They are doing seriously evil things and must be stopped. But I am somewhat troubled by the words of Jesus, “love your enemy.” IS is clearly an enemy of God’s people, so how do we balance this? The church endured terrible persecution, even in the Bible, but they never seemed to fight back. How do we stop them and love them at the same time?

I’ve done a fair amount of thinking and research on these two questions. To be honest, I’m still not sure of all the answers, and would love some comments with your thinking, but here are 6 ways you can actually do something to make a difference:

1) Love your enemy:

Romans 12:14-21 is a riveting passage in which Paul calls us to love our enemies. Here are a couple verses that highlight this: 14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. 19 Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it[i] to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” 20 To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” 21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

From this it is clear, as Christians we are called to love the Islamic State. This seems insane, and I almost feel dirty saying it, but it’s the truth. We need to realize what it means, however. Loving someone does not mean you encourage or allow them to continue in their sin. It means we point them to Jesus and his saving grace. Members of the IS are evil, but Jesus died for them, and ultimately he is the only one who can change them. You will probably never meet a member of IS, but you can pray that they would repent and believe the truth.

2) Call on the government for justice:

Can you love someone and demand justice be served against them? Of course – God does this often.

I was talking with my friend Keith and he pointed out that Romans 12 is followed immediately by a passage where Paul explains one of God’s systems for dealing with justice. Romans 13:1-4 says, “Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer.

God has instituted the governments of the world to carry His wrath on the wrongdoer. ISIS definitely qualifies as a wrongdoer, and so we should be calling the governments of the world to bring justice. The US recently approved airstrikes on the terror group, and this is certainly a start, but more is needed. I can’t pretend to be a politician and know the answers, but our leaders will listen if we unite in this cause. So contact your congressman or the White House or Parliament or whoever is in charge of your nation, and call for action! One of the quickest and easiest ways is to sign this White House petition. You can also contact your congressman directly using this website – it will take 2 minutes and you will make a difference, so just go do it!

3) Love your neighbor:

This is more of a proactive approach than a reactive approach. ISIS is nothing new, there are many terrible examples of genocide throughout history. Kosovo, Rwanda, Cambodia, the Holocaust, and the list could go on. If we love our neighbor, we can help prevent things like this in the future.

Omar Shafik Hammami grew up as a Southern Baptist in Alabama. In 2012 he earned a spot on the FBI’s most wanted terrorist list because of his work for the Somali Islamist militant group al-Shabaab. How did this happen? I don’t really know, but I do believe that if he had truly experienced the love of Christ in his own neighborhood, he would not have gone down the same path. So love your neighbor, you are an ambassador for Christ and can change the course of their future, and maybe the future of many others.

4) Support Relief Efforts:

Not only do we need to stop ISIS, but we need to help the people who are suffering at their hands. Our Christian brothers and sisters in Northern Iraq need help, and we should work to give it to them. Not only that, but we should support the other minorities in the area as well. Again, one way you can do this is by contacting your congressman or government leader.

I would also suggest giving to relief organizations like Open Doors. I’ve had trouble finding many other direct donation opportunities, so if you know of any, please share it in the comments. (Update: Nanci commented below with this link and recommended Samaritan’s Purse).

5) Don’t stereotype:

There is always a temptation when a group called the “Islamic State” starts killing people. While some will want to blame everyone who belongs to Islam for this, we should not make that mistake. I’ve visited Kosovo twice, where in the 90’s a group of Serbians killed thousands of Muslims. Many Kosovar had to flee their homes and lost family members at the hands of their enemy. During my two trips, I became friends with many Kosovars. I was shocked and appalled to hear that many of their family and friends were killed in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.

Now, a group of “Christians” committed that atrocity, and again some would want to blame all Christians for that act of genocide. But we know this is not true Christianity. In the same way, we know that all Muslims do not support what ISIS is doing. In fact, many Muslims are being hurt and killed by these terrorists. So continue to love, encourage, and pray for your Muslim neighbors.

6) Pray and Fast:

This is, perhaps, the most important of all. Pray genuinely matters, and the Bible has multiple instances where God fights for his people in the Bible. In 2 Chronicles 20, King Jehoshaphat calls the people to pray and fast so that God would rescue them from Ammon, Moab, and Mount Seir. God hears their prayer, and when Israel goes out to battle, God puts their enemy into confusion and they all kill themselves.

In 2 Kings 19, King Hezekiah prays to the Lord to rescue them from the Assyrians. Again, the Lord answers his people, this time in an even more miraculous way. Here is what vs. 35 says, “And that night the angel of the LORD went out and struck down 185,000 in the camp of the Assyrians. And when people arose early in the morning, behold, these were all dead bodies.

We should be praying for the salvation of people from ISIS in the same way we would pray if ISIS were outside our front door. We must plea with passion for God to intervene, and we must believe he can make a difference. The same God who threw the armies of Ammon and Moab into confusion and sent his angel to destroy the Assyrians is the same God today. How awesome would it be if the same thing happened today? What if ISIS turned on itself? God can and will bring justice, let us pray (and even fast) and ask Him to bring it soon. Garret Kell has put together a Scripture based prayer for the situation.

I’m not very good at fasting, but when the need is this great I think it is worth the effort. Not only that, it helps (in a very, very small way) to identify with the people who are suffering in Iraq. If you’d like to join me, spend some time fasting this week (it could be food, but doesn’t need to be – just make sure it’s a sacrifice). During the time you save, pray for relief and justice, and I believe if we unite as a global community of Christians for this, God will not allow the prayers to be wasted.

Your turn: What do you think we could be doing about ISIS?