I watched in shock last Wednesday as our nation’s Capitol building was stormed by an angry mob looking to disrupt the constitutional process of electing a new president. Since then, I’ve watched countless videos with crowds chanting, “Hang Mike Pence!” After the decisions we all had to make regarding the pandemic last year, the riots we saw back in the summer, then the images we witnessed in the halls of Congress on Wednesday, you may have people in your church on all sides of a myriad of issues.
As a pastor, you may well be wondering, “How on earth do I lead through all this chaos?” I wrestled with these same thoughts last week as I prepared to step in the pulpit. What could I say to bring sense to the madness we’ve seen? How can I help calm fears as we enter what may be the most tumultuous two weeks most of us have experienced in our nation? The following thoughts guided me as I helped my congregation process the last week.
1. Remind your people – and yourself – that God is still in control.
I’m reminded that, throughout Scripture, God raised up both wicked and righteous rulers, and that He accomplished His purposes through both of them. They often were not the leaders God’s people would have preferred. Many committed horrendously sinful acts. And yet, God worked in His people, whether their earthly leaders were godly or godless. The same is true for today.
2. Remind your people – and yourself – that God calls us to submit to earthly leaders.
Paul, in his letter to the Romans (written under Nero, a notably wicked emperor) shows us the way forward:
Romans 13:1–7 CSB
1 Let everyone submit to the governing authorities, since there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are instituted by God. 2 So then, the one who resists the authority is opposing God’s command, and those who oppose it will bring judgment on themselves. 3 For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Do you want to be unafraid of the one in authority? Do what is good, and you will have its approval. 4 For it is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, because it does not carry the sword for no reason. For it is God’s servant, an avenger that brings wrath on the one who does wrong. 5 Therefore, you must submit, not only because of wrath but also because of your conscience. 6 And for this reason you pay taxes, since the authorities are God’s servants, continually attending to these tasks. 7 Pay your obligations to everyone: taxes to those you owe taxes, tolls to those you owe tolls, respect to those you owe respect, and honor to those you owe honor.
This can be much more difficult when we find ourselves under the earthly leadership of those with whom we disagree strongly. However, unless we are being commanded to follow laws that are in direct conflict with God’s Word, we are called to submit. (And even if we must disobey, we are called to do so with civility and respect). Submission to earthly authorities should be our default position. As pastors and church leaders, we must model this for our people.
3. Remind your people – and yourself – of our ultimate task.
No matter which way the winds of our culture may blow, our task remains the same: make disciples. The early church and millions of believers throughout history have carried out this calling under the pressure of intense persecution. Believers have been faithful to this calling under benevolent leaders and tyrants alike. They’ve done so in cathedrals and closets, from palaces to prisons. Regardless of what happens over the next two weeks and under a new political administration, our calling remains the same:
Matthew 28:19-20a CSB
Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe everything I have commanded you.
4. Remind your people – and yourself – of Jesus’ promise.
As we share the truth of the gospel in an increasingly secular age, there will no doubt be times that we begin to lose heart. When we do, we must remind ourselves of the promise Jesus gave to His disciples at the end of Matthew’s gospel:
Matthew 28:20b CSB
And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.
Don’t give up, brothers. Don’t lose heart. Keep your eyes focused on Jesus, and keep on pointing your people (and yourself) to Him!
Published January 12, 2021