Honorable Disagreement

A Baptist pastor in Tempe, AZ preached a sermon two weeks that created a bit of buzz. In fact, seriously looking men in black suits who talk into their sleeves are paying attention to it. The sermon was entitled “Why I Hate Barack Obama.” In the sermon, the preacher told his church that he regularly prays for the president's death.

If you want to know how I'd like to see Obama die, I'd like him to die of natural causes. I don't want him to be a martyr, we don't need another holiday. I'd like to see him die, like Ted Kennedy, of brain cancer.

Tell me again why we have such trouble today convincing people that Christianity is a good, honorable and reasonable way to live? We are told to pray for our enemies (Luke 6:27-28), but I doubt Jesus meant to pray for them to die of a horrible disease! You know, if you ask anyone else to kill a person for you, that is criminal conspiracy. We have been assured that the US Secret Service is taking the matter seriously.

It is generally believed that Paul and Peter were both executed during the persecution by Nero after the Great Fire of Rome in AD. 64. According to Roman historian Tacitus, Nero launched these persecutions after blaming Christians for the fire to deflect suspicion from himself. Most Roman historians portray Nero as an egotistical, extravagant and brutal tyrant. Major historical sources like Tacitus, Suetonius and Cassius Dio really have few complementary things to say about Nero. Christian writers like Tertullian and Eusebius condemn Nero as the persecutor of Christians and the killer of Paul and Peter. Augustine believed that Nero was the Antichrist.

So maybe Nero was responsible for the deaths of Paul and Peter. Nero certainly was responsible for the deaths of many Christians. So I wonder what Peter and Paul would have said about the administration of Caesar Nero? We don’t have to guess; they did speak about him.

I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone—for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. (1 Timothy 2:1-4)

Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every authority instituted among men: whether to the king, as the supreme authority, or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right. For it is God’s will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish men. Live as free men, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as servants of God. Show proper respect to everyone: Love the brotherhood of believers, fear God, honor the king. (1 Peter 2:13-17)

Paul and Peter taught Christians pray for the king and those in authority… even if that king is Nero.

So why do so many Christians seem to be so smug and justified in their constant mean-spirited, demeaning, and vitriolic ridicule and derision of the president? OK, so you don’t agree with his proposed overhaul the health system? Well, stand in line. But does anyone seriously think that the president (this one or any other) is as evil as Nero? Paul and Peter told Christians to pray for and honor Nero. We are given the right by our Constitution to disagree with our leaders. But we are given the commandment by God to pray for and honor them.

According to Nancy Reagan, Senator Kennedy and President Reagan were great friends despite being so far across the aisle on most issues that they could barely see one another! One can disagree with another's politics while remaining honorable. One can be adamantly opposed to a president's agenda while still being respectful. I'm thankful God has blessed us to live in a country where disagreement with leaders is our Constitutional right. We must never think that the Constitution gives us the right to the clear command of God.