Thursday, January 19, 2017

A Prayer for the President

Our Father in heaven, we confess that you alone are God and that all authority in heaven and on earth belongs to you.[1] Your dominion is an everlasting dominion, and your kingdom endures from generation to generation.[2] You change times and seasons; you remove kings and set up kings.[3] You execute judgment, putting down one and lifting up another,[4] and no one on earth wields power without having received it from you.
Therefore, we acknowledge that it is by your will that Donald Trump has come to be the president of the United States. We pray that he may recognize this as well and that the thought of it would humble him and cause him to tremble under the weight of so great a responsibility, remembering that he shall one day have to give an account for the sacred trust you have given him. May he see himself as your servant, called to do your will. May he seek you with all his heart, and find you. Hear him, when he prays to you.[5] And please hear us, too, as we pray on his behalf.
Grant him wisdom, that he may know what is true and good and right in every circumstance.
Grant him the will—and the courage—to do what is pleasing in your sight, even if it is not politically expedient, or even if it works to his own personal disadvantage.
Grant him the grace to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with you.[6]
May he administer the laws of the nation impartially, favoring neither the rich nor the poor, but seeking only to protect the innocent and punish the guilty.[7]
May he trust in you with all his heart, and lean not to his own understanding; may he acknowledge you in all his ways, so that he might walk in paths of truth and righteousness.[8]
Bless him and his family with good health and long life.
Protect him from those who would seek his harm.
May his presidency be a blessing to the nation; may it be a period of safety and peace, of prosperity and good will.
We ask these things in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, the King of kings and the Lord of lords, the ruler of the kings of the earth.[9] Amen.

[1] Ps. 135:6
[2] Dan. 4:34
[3] Dan. 2:21
[4] Ps. 75:7
[5] Jer. 29:12-13
[6] Micah 6:8
[7] Lev. 19:15
[8] Prov. 3:5-6; Ps. 23:3
[9] Rev. 19:16; 1:5

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

A man and his oath

“It is not the oath that makes us believe the man, but the man the oath.”
~ Aeschylus

On Friday Donald Trump will take the oath of office to become the 45th president of the United States, bringing unmitigated joy to some and plunging others into deep despair. Judging by social media, these two reactions exhaust the range of possibilities:  there are only lovers and haters.

In reality, many find themselves somewhere in between. I feel something like a man who has experienced a narrow brush with death, relieved that the republic avoided the almost certainly fatal wound of a Clinton presidency, and cautiously optimistic that the wound that is Trump, though serious, is curable. As I told my family on election night, “The good news is that Clinton is not president; the bad news is that Trump is.” It turns out that the most beatable Democrat lost to the most beatable Republican.

To be fair, I only had two objections to Clinton:  her character and her political vision. I am a bit more sanguine about the general tenor of Trump’s political vision than I could ever be about Clinton’s, especially the commitment he has expressed to appoint an originalist to the Supreme Court in the mold of Antonin Scalia.

My cautious optimism, however, is tempered by concerns about his character. He doesn’t have a very good track record with respect to keeping his promises. He has cheated on and divorced two women to whom he had sworn to be faithful “until death do us part.” His third wife has been spared divorce, but perhaps not being cheated on.[1] He has also shown little regard for the marital vows of others, boasting that he has bedded numerous married women.[2]

When I watch him this Friday taking the oath of office, I won’t be able to avoid remembering the words of Aeschylus, the 5th century BC playwright:  “It is not the oath that makes us believe the man, but the man the oath.”

I hope—and pray—that he will keep his presidential oath and turn out to be a far better man and a far better president than anyone expects. The Scriptures instruct us to pray for “kings and all who are in high positions” (1 Tim. 2:2). Let us do so sincerely and fervently, remembering that the heart of the king is in the hand of the Lord, and he can turn it wherever he wills (Prov. 21:1).

[1] His intentions for Ariane Zucker, as he described them to Billy Bush in the infamous Access Hollywood video were expressed when he had only recently married Melania:  “I've got to use some Tic Tacs, just in case I start kissing her. You know I’m automatically attracted to beautiful—I just start kissing them. It's like a magnet. Just kiss. I don't even wait. And when you’re a star, they let you do it, you can do anything... Grab them by the pussy. You can do anything.”
[2] “If I told the real stories of my experiences with women, often seemingly very happily married and important women, this book would be a guaranteed best-seller.” (The Art of the Deal)

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Suffering and Glory

“The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.”
~ John 12:23 ~

In the fourth Gospel we frequently come across the mention of Jesus’ “hour.” This hour is sometimes referred to by the author (7:30; 8:20; 13:1), but more often by Jesus himself (2:4; 7:6, 8; 12:23; 17:1, 5; cf. 12:27, 28; 13:31).[1]

It is said several times over in the first half of the book that his hour had not yet come. But beginning in chapter twelve, his hour is impending.

His hour is the time that had been appointed by the Father for his suffering and death, to be followed of course by his resurrection and ascension. In several of these passages Jesus’ hour is mentioned in connection with him receiving glory from the Father (12:23, 27-28; 13:31; 17:1).

It is also worth noting that in all these passages Jesus looks past his suffering and death, and looks to receiving glory from the Father. He doesn’t say, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be crucified,” but “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified.” In his mind, the reward of his suffering far outweighed its sorrow. The writer of Hebrews says much the same thing, but in a slightly different way when he says, “for the joy that was set before him [he] endured the cross, despising the shame” (Heb. 12:2). He looked past the present suffering to see the glory that awaited. He knew that the sorrow of the cross would be swallowed up by joy.

This is also true of our trials and afflictions. No suffering is ever joyful in itself. We would never choose it for its own sake. But he who remains faithful in the midst of suffering can also hold in joyful anticipation what Jesus looked forward to—receiving glory from the Father. Paul tells us in his letter to the Romans that “there will be glory and honor and peace for everybody who does good” (Rom. 2:10). This is the joy that is set before us—obtaining glory and honor and peace from God the Father through Jesus Christ our Lord.

The glory that we are destined to receive will be different from that of Christ’s in kind as well as in degree. But it will nevertheless be true that God will glorify his saints. And when he does, we will be able to testify by our own experience what we now only confess by faith, that “the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us” (Rom. 8:18).

[1] These last three passages do not explicitly mention his “hour” but nevertheless refer to it with the temporal use of the word “now.”