What must politically conservative Christians do with the results of the recent elections?
The answers are clear and unambiguous: Thank God and pray for President Obama.
First, we should thank God.
We should thank God because the promise that all things work together for good applies to more than just stubbing our toes or not getting the job we wanted.
We should thank God because our nation, once again, has undergone the process of selecting national and local leaders without the clash of armies or the imprisonment of dissidents. There are many in the world today who would absolutely thank God if they lived in such a land.
We should thank God because the man elected has expressed no malice toward the church. Quite the opposite. He has repeatedly identified himself as a Christian. Whether his assertions are genuine (some people insist a person cannot be both Christian and pro-choice) is not the issue. If many of our brothers and sisters in other nations read in their newspapers today that their nation's leader publicly asserted he was a Christian, they would bow their heads and thank God they had lived long enough to see such a day.
More than thanking God, though, we must pray for our President.
Paul instructs Timothy: 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. (1 Timothy 2:1-2)
He also instructs Titus to tell the Christians on Crete: "Remind them to be submissive to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good work, to speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy toward all people." (Titus 3:1-2)
When he writes these words, the ruler in question is Nero. And, unlike Romans 13, these passages cannot be interpreted as Paul writing such things only in the early "good" years of Nero's reign. When these words were written Rome had burned and local Christians had been blamed. Still, Paul commands the believers to pray for their rulers.
It is precisely the church as the exile people of God living within the hostile nations of a fallen world that is the assumed normal reflected throughout the New Testament. Those ancient Christians never expressed outrage or despair that the doors into the halls of power were closed to them.
It is remarkable how seriously early Christians seemed to have understood this principle. Pagan Roman historians may have written scathingly about corruption Nero or insane madness of Caligula. But the Christians living through terrible persecutions are never recorded saying or writing such things. Polycarp, Perpetua, and countless thousands who suffered and died in those centuries are courteous and respectful even to those who condemned, tortured, and killed them.
It is heartbreaking to read and hear what American Christians, embroiled in the culture of partisan polarization and outrage, imagine we are somehow justified in writing and saying simply because a Democrat and not a Republican won the election.
Tertullian lived more than a century after Paul. He knew about the deaths of Polycarp and Justin and countless others who suffered under the empire's periodic persecutions. He woke up every morning into a world entirely ruled by pagans.
So, what was his response? Outrage? Ad hominum attacks? Of course not. He actively prayed for the leaders of the empire. "Without ceasing, for all our emperors we offer prayer. We pray for life prolonged; for security to the empire; for protection to the imperial house; for brave armies, a faithful senate, a virtuous people, the world at rest, whatever, as man or Caesar, an emperor would wish." (from Apologeticus pro Christianis, 30)
So, what should we do in the face of the recent election?
I'm not really sure how we came to think our King gives us a choice. We must set our hope in God and be thankful we woke up without fear or hunger. And, beyond all question, we should pray for the President. We should pray for national security. We should pray for protection for the President's family. Pray for brave armies. Pray for a faithful congress. Pray for a virtuous people. And pray for a world at rest.
This is good and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior.