Today we inaugurate a new president.
For half the country, it’s a day to celebrate. For the other half, it’s a day to mourn. It’s either the end of a nightmare or the beginning of one, a brand new day or the end of the world.
There is no middle ground. Not anymore.
And that, therein, is the problem. Because yes, starting today, we have a new president. But we still have the same divided country.
Somewhere along the way, but especially this past election, politics became about more than differing viewpoints. It became heated and personal; it became less about being right and more about proving the other party wrong–and not only wrong but evil and corrupt.
But here’s the thing: Donald Trump isn’t what was destroying this country, and Joe Biden is not going to be what saves it (or vice versa, depending on your political viewpoint).
Because the problem isn’t who is sitting in the Oval Office. The problem, quite simply, is us.
We’ve become so concerned with how we’re different (liberals and conservatives, Democrats and Republicans, even white or black) that our very humanity–the most basic of our commonalities–has gotten lost in the shuffle. Rudeness, crass, and blatant disregard for another person’s well-being have been cast aside; manners and civility are only for those on your side of the aisle.
And we’ve not only drawn up division lines, we’ve started hurling weapons at each other. It’s now perfectly accept to mock, humiliate, demean, and degrade anyone who disagrees with us; the army of “cancel culture” is real. We applaud violence as justifiable as long as it aligns with “our truth.” We spew false narratives or distort the facts just enough to polish our own faces, while grabbing the first mis-step, mis-speak, or mis-deed (real or imagined) and fling it around and around until mud covers, not only the offending person, but anyone who dares stand next to him/her.
And then we point and laugh.
Sure, it would be easy to blame Trump. His outbursts and profanity give many the opportunity to play “well, he started it.” But can we take down the barbed wire fences long enough to admit that this type of behavior is prevalent on both sides of the political aisle? Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer have both been guilty of name-calling and fat-shaming. Trump’s morality is questioned repeatedly–not without merit—and yet Biden remains mum on his own sexual misconduct allegations as well as refusing to answer questions about his son’s business dealings. People claim civility only went out the window when Trump came into office and, well, started acting like Donald Trump. But when Bill Clinton was caught in adultery, did that suddenly make adultery acceptable? Leaders have influence, of course, but ultimately, we alone are responsible for our choice of speech, attitude, and actions.
The truth is the pendulum swings both ways. We just don’t want to hear it. In fact, we don’t want to hear anything that contradicts our own version of truth.
But there is no such thing as “my truth” and “your truth.” There is only Truth, with a capital ‘T’, and it was spelled out long before Donald Trump or Joe Biden ever set foot in Washington.
Long before there ever was a Washington, in fact.
You see, long before there was even a country to be divided, before politics, before presidents, even before the very formation of the world itself, there was God. He was there in the beginning, and He’s there now.
And He’s still Lord over it all.
For thousands of years, there have been earthly rulers. Kings and queens, presidents and prime ministers. And all of them have been under the hand of the Lord Most High.
“…the Most High God is sovereign over the kingdoms of men and sets over them anyone he wishes.” (Daniel 5:21b)
Even the Israelites existed under the banner of a series of judges and eventually kings, some of them good, some of them evil, all of their stories laid out in the Old Testament. Of these kings, David was the best, a ruler God declared as a man after His own heart (1 Samuel 13:14). And yet David faltered. He sinned. He committed adultery. He had a man murdered.
Because he was still only a man.
Joe Biden will not save us. Nor will the president after him or the president after or the president after. Because they are only human. And because the role of Savior has already been filled.
Our salvation was accomplished over 2000 years ago when Jesus was nailed to the cross. Since then, no matter who was on the throne (or in the White House, in our case), God’s presence and His love has never wavered.
Leaders come and go. Society and culture change. But God’s plan, purpose, and Word has never changed and never will.
The current president has no say over whether you love your neighbor. God does.
The current president has no say about how you speak to your enemy. God does.
The current president has no say in how you treat those with whom you disagree. God does.
We as a body of believers must realize that the kingdom of heaven will never be achieved through politics or worldly governments. It will only be achieved by God working through us–by acting in love and obedience, making the message of the cross visible, tangible, and reachable to a people that so desperately need it.
So today, as a new president is sworn into office, I encourage every follower of Christ to consider the words of Paul:
“I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone–for kings and those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness.” (1 Timothy 2: 1-2)
No matter who you voted for, no matter which side of the political aisle, pray for our president, our Congress, our state and local leaders. Pray for our country, for healing and for unity.
Most of all, though, pray for each other, for your friends and your enemies, that the latter would become the former. And that our true nature–that of being made in the image of our common Creator–would triumph over any divides, real or imagined, as we move toward a future in which God has always been, and will remain, the King above all kings.