Who do you respect? Perhaps it’s a parent, mentor or teacher. Our response to God’s love for us is to be a person of respect and obedience. Although we can certainly improve how we show respect, it’s easy to say we respect God or the godly people in our lives. But what about those leaders who continually ignore God’s way of life with their policies, actions and even their speech?
No matter when or where you’re reading this, chances are you can think of a national or local authority whose decisions seem to cause more harm than good. Social media is flooded with demeaning cartoons, cutting statements and endless debates about this person. Do you participate?
The apostle James warned the Church to guard their words. He said: “But no man can tame the tongue. It is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our God and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the similitude of God. Out of the same mouth proceed blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be so” (James 3:8-10). Using nasty words against others undermines our praise of God—how can we truly be praising God if we treat His creation with distaste? Just because we don’t agree with a policy doesn’t give us permission to tear the leader down as a person.
Before David became king, he was presented with a difficult test. Would he treat the current king, a wicked leader who had rejected God, with respect? King Saul was in pursuit of David, seeking the opportunity to kill him (1 Samuel 24:1-2). When his army got close to the place where David was hiding, an unexpected opportunity arose—for David to kill Saul first (1 Samuel 24:3-4). “David arose and secretly cut off a corner of Saul’s robe. Now it happened afterward that David’s heart troubled him because he had cut Saul’s robe” (verses 4-5). Why did it bother him? Why hadn’t he gone all the way and killed Saul? He told his men, “The LORD forbid that I should do this thing to my master, the LORD's anointed, to stretch out my hand against him, seeing that he is the anointed of the LORD” (verse 6).
David realized that his actions were disrespectful, even though he stopped short of taking the king’s life. He afterward called out to King Saul, addressing him respectfully, and used this as an opportunity to remind the king of his love and respect for him and ask that he lay off the pursuit (1 Samuel 24:7-15). Thankfully, Saul received this well (verses 16-22).
Perhaps you have cut off “a corner of the robe,” so to speak. Will you stop before it’s carried too far? You don’t have to suddenly start posting all the things you love about the leader on social media—there may not be a lot to commend. But there is something specific Scripture recommends, an action we can take for all leaders, good or evil.
“Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men, for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence” (1 Timothy 2:1-2). When you’re tempted to spout out criticisms, consider what you can pray about for the person in question. If a leader has made a bad decision, pray for a change of heart! If they have just put themselves and the whole nation in danger, pray for protection! And while you’re praying, remember to thank God for any good things you see, because it may not all be shortcomings.
We need to respect our leaders, regardless of whether or not they stand for godly policies. Eventually, this world’s way of government will come to an end and be replaced by God’s righteous, loving way of life. But in the meantime, let’s use our tongue not to tear others down, but to pray.