It's Thursday, May 5th as I write this. Much of the country is celebrating Cinco de Mayo, and my wife and I plan on celebrating tonight with some classic homemade street tacos. But not only is it Cinco de Mayo, today across the United States it's the National Day of Prayer. The Christian community also celebrates this day as Ascension Thursday, referring to how Christ Jesus spent 40 days on earth after His resurrection and then ascended into heaven from the Mount of Olives right outside the Jerusalem city walls. You could say there's a fair amount to celebrate on this beautiful spring day.
But there is also seemingly a lot to mourn, or at least be confused about, right now. I've been struggling for a long time as the current presidential race has come down to the wire, especially now that we seem to have our two top candidates all but locked in with Hilary Clinton and Donald Trump. I've seen many of my friends post scathing things about these two candidates (and plenty of others as well) over many different social platforms. I understand their sentiment; I don't think that I could say anything good about most of the presidential candidates who ran this year. But for the most part I've kept my mouth shut, in person and online, for two main reasons: First, because I haven't taken the time to really sit down and study the candidates, their history, and their stances on certain issues. Secondly, I didn't want to publicly slander any of the people who could potentially be in a significant position of authority over our country come November.
No matter who is elected the next president of the United States, no matter whether you like them or not, no matter whether you voted for them or not, that person will be arguably the ultimate human authority in this country, which means that we need to treat them with a certain level of respect. The apostle Paul addresses this in his epistle to the Romans: "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" (Romans 13:1-2). Paul was writing this to believers during the Roman Empire, a time when the Church was persecuted more often and more vehemently than almost any other time in the past two thousand years. The ruling authorities who caused that persecution had been put in place by God, so to openly resist or oppose those authorities would mean they were resisting and opposing what God had done. The same rings true for us. Whether Trump or Clinton is elected at the beginning of November, it is our duty to submit to their authority and to pray for them as our leaders.
This does not mean we are supportive of everything the president does or says. I would guess that most of the time we won't agree with what they do and say. But only if/when the president seeks to force us to do something we know not to be in line with Scripture are we allowed to stand in direct defiance to the governing authority. If tax brackets are adjusted, we file our taxes accordingly, even if it costs us more money. If every person in the country is required to openly celebrate or condone something we know to be sinful and against God's law, then and only then can we say that we are not able to follow our commander-in-chief. It looks as if that time may be closer on the horizon now more than ever, but we're not quite there yet*.
On the day Jesus ascended into heaven, His followers watched in amazement until two angels appeared to them to tell them that Christ would return to the earth someday in the same way that He left it. This day, Ascension Thursday, is a reminder for us that though Christ is not here in bodily form now, He will return one day. There will never be a perfect authority on earth until Jesus returns to rule. All we can do now is pray that His will be done on earth, and that He return quickly.
When I worked at Compass Bible Church in Orange County a few years back, one of the words I heard repeated throughout the church, both in prayer and in conversation, was Maranatha -- O Lord, come! Today, during the National Day of Prayer, reminded of what happened on Ascension Thursday, I think it's fitting that we all pray to the same end, that Christ would come quickly to reign over the earth, and that sin and death would be defeated once and for all.
* -- Just to be clear, I do not mean that the current administration has done nothing that we would need to be in direct opposition to. Recent cases where Christian-owned bakeries have been sues for refusing to make a gay wedding cake show that we are already heading down this path. But it has not reached the broader Christian community just yet.
A simple servant of the Master.