By Pastor Leroy Gilbert, Ph.D.
Originally written the week of 11-28-16
A few weeks before the 2016 Presidential election, I received a disturbing telephone call from a prominent pastor friend of mine. He prophesied that Donald Trump was going to win. I thought he was delusional because all the polls and everybody I knew thought Hillary Clinton would win. It was a matter of how much, not if.
The Pastor who called me, told me that God spoke to him and said, “Because America has rejected me, I am going to give them what they want and deserve.” I started praying that God would not give us what we wanted and deserved, but would be merciful unto us as a nation under God. The Pastor assured me that America will be alright. We as a nation, as a people will be okay.
In the two biblical books of Kings, we learned how leaders, rulers, and governments were established. Government and leadership, in biblical times, were often a judgment of God. We often find in the Old Testament where God punished His chosen people because of their transgressions. Because the people rejected Him and sinned against the Almighty, God suffered that they have the kind of leaders they wanted and deserved. That was the downfall of biblical Israel.
There may be a correlation between what happened in biblical times and what is happening in modern times. Because we as a nation have gone astray, abandoned God, and rejected the principles of God, it is possible that God is responding to our transgressions by giving our nation what we want and deserve.
However, I find hope in understanding the sovereignty of God over America. God is still in charge of our lives, our nation, not the President. The Bible says that God establishes government and leaders, “Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God” (Romans 13:1).
Although God ordains worldly leaders, not every leader is ordained of God. This point was made clear in Hosea 8:4 where in speaking about biblical Israel. the Bible says: "They have set up kings, but not by me; they have made princes, and I knew it not; of their silver and gold have they made them idols that they may be cut off." What this verse is saying is that the people set up kings, but the kings they set up were not who God wanted and therefore did not receive God's blessing. The people made and removed princes at their will without consulting God. Obviously, there have been occasions when the people chose rulers and leaders which were NOT ordained by God nor was God even consulted.
The blanket statement made by many evangelical Christians and some conservative theologians that every government along with every governmental official, ruler and magistrate is ordained by God is simply not true. People in a Democracy or Republic choose who they want to rule over them. Elections are held with the person getting the most votes winning. In these types of situations, it can hardly be said that every winner of every election was ordained by God.
Thousands of people are protesting the results of the election. They fear what a Trump presidency would mean to their lives and our nation. We as Americans have the right to protest and express our concerns and disagreements with political policies and elected officials. The freedom of protest is one of the great attributes of our democracy.
This election has shaken America to its core, and we need to reestablish equilibrium. We can accomplish this by developing a biblical view of how to respond to this election and disappointments in the heart. Apostle Paul talks about our divine citizenship. He instructs us not to get too comfortable living in this world. Paul probably would take issues with Christians who are saying, “I am moving to Canada, Africa, or Europe, or wherever.” Paul reminds us that America, this world, is not our home. He refers to a citizenship in the Kingdom of God. Hebrews 13:14 (NLT) “14 For this world is not our permanent home; we are looking forward to a home yet to come.” And Phil 3:20 “But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ.” Wherever we live or decide to go will never be a utopia or a paradise because it is not the appointed place of our divine citizenship. The result of an election may satisfy our preference but an elected leader cannot make America heaven on earth.
Numerous Americans have expressed fear of a Trump presidency. Some do not feel wanted or safe in their own country. They fear that the President-Elect could make their lives seem like hell on earth for the next four years. We must be careful not to prejudge the new president because we do not actually know what kind of president he will become. Nevertheless, churches and religious institutions, during the Trump presidency, need to be prepared to play a vital role in our nation’s stability by providing a safe environment and a voice for disenfranchised, impoverished, downcast, and outcast Americans, as well as deserving undocumented immigrants.
Religious leaders should pray that President-Elect Trump will have a change of heart and abandon his bombastic campaign rhetoric of intimidation, bigotry, national isolation, disrespect for women and the gay community. Churches and places of worship must make sure that all people regardless of race, color, or sexual orientation, are welcomed, nurtured, and respected. People are hurting; the church must open its arms, wallets, and facilities as it did during the Civil Rights Movement. Circumstances as a result of the 2016 presidential election have presented our nation, and especially church leaders, with tremendous challenges but exciting opportunities.
America is indeed blessed by a diversity of people. However, our unique diversity has many challenges. We will make a big mistake to think or accuse ALL those who voted for Donald Trump as racists. I have a very good relationship with several good, upstanding, wonderful, and informed people both Black and White, who voted for Trump, and they definitely are not racists but are the best of friends. Conversely, it is a reality that many hate groups like the KKK advocated for Trump and are celebrating that they got their man.
Like many Democrats, I am immensely disappointed about the outcome of the election. I never thought our country would select a person with Donald Trump’s background, character, and lack of experience. How wrong I was. Over 90 million people could have voted in the 2016 Presidential Election, but didn’t. When will we learn that our votes matter! There are many people who are disgusted with the outcome of the election but did not vote.
President-elect Trump called for unity between political parties and the racial divide. However, although the president should champion unity, he does not have the moral authority nor the knowhow to bring peace to a fractured world. The church has a major role to foster peace and unity. The Bible gives us a road map for unity. America must look to God to obtain genuine love, unity, and peace. The church and religious institutions are the vehicle through which God works in the world.
Human beings have both a longing for peace and a tendency toward competition that can lead to violence and disharmony. Humankind is capable of both good and evil. We live in a world of dichotomy between cooperation and competitiveness. In spite of our goodness as a nation, we are also inclined to look to our own interests without consideration of others. From a Christian worldview, broken relationship is a result of sin against God. The biblical story of human origins includes the "Fall of man." From the very beginning of history, humankind has not been able to master sin, which is the root of violence (Gen 4:6-7). The story of Cain and Abel describes the beginning of humanity's failure to obey God's command to love one another, to help each other, to care for each other, and to master sin.
This thread of failure runs right through the Bible. Transgression against God and one another still retains its power over individuals and communities. This sin against the will of God and each other is the major cause of disharmony in the world, resulting in violence and profanity in every sector of American life.
The church has a mission to be the representative of the will, message, an intention of God. America is a blessed nation. No other country is equal to America in culture, humanity, and power. The church can save America from
destroying itself by advocating and demonstrating genuine love, peace, and harmony across political and cultural lines. Churches that stir up wrath, hatred, bigotry, and dissension are being used by the Devil to destroy this great land. A divided nation cannot stand.
How can our land be healed of disunity, sin, and disparity? God has told us what to do and how to do it. In Micah 6:8, God is telling our nation:
“He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
and to walk humbly with your God.”
Also, we have a direct message from God to our nation, “If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land” ( Chronicles 7:14).
Dave Chappelle, an outspoken stand-up comedian addressed the protest against President-Elect Trump when he hosted “Saturday Night Live.” He remarked, ”I’m wishing Donald Trump luck. And I’m going to give him a chance. And we, the historically disenfranchised, demand that he give us one, too.” Yes, we must give Trump a chance, and vice versa.
Martin Luther King’s words are still profoundly relevant today, “We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools.” America can only achieve unity, peace, and solidarity by a transformation of a love greater than our own. Martin Luther King’ Jr. spoke of such love, “Love is the only force capable of transforming an enemy into friend.” Politics cannot transform our nation. We need divine intervention. As Jesus said, "You err, not knowing the Scriptures, nor the power of God (Matthew 22:29).
Pastor Leroy Gilbert, Ph.D., is the Senior Pastor of Mt. Gilead Baptist Church in Washington, D.C. You can e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org