No: Be afraid. Be very afraid.
The line has become nearly ubiquitous; its modern origin is the 1986 horror flick, The Fly. Jeff Goldblum is the quirky scientist; Geena Davis is the reporter working to expose his teleportation work. As Goldblum’s lab goof sends him into species transfer, he tries to reassure the reporter: “Don’t be afraid.” Davis replies to the threat with wisdom: “No. Be afraid. Be very afraid…”
Just a month ago, the cultural calendar delivered the National Day of Prayer. As is usually true, the only people who observed the emphasis were those who pray every day. The majority of American society went on about their business that day without being distracted by the Divine…
Recently, some national faith leaders called for American Christians to designate yesterday – June 2 – as a day to pray for the President. That call echoes the kind of wise coaching offered by Peter to Christians living in a pagan Roman environment: “Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human authority: whether to the emperor, as the supreme authority, or to governors, who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to commend those who do right. For it is God’s will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish people. Live as free people, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as God’s slaves. Show proper respect to everyone, love the family of believers, fear God, honor the emperor.” (1 Peter 2:13-17).
That advice is in stark contrast to the social norms surrounding Christians – then, and today – regarding personal decorum in public demonstration and discourse. For the mainstream: forget God and trash the President. For the follower of Jesus, the orders are clear: fear God and honor the President.Why? “It is God’s will that by doing good you should silence the ignorant talk of foolish people.”
When you view America through a political lens, the population typically breaks into a two-parts – with two parties – and a broadening divide shows no sign of closing. When viewed through a biblical lens, the multitude gathers under two God-defined banners: the Righteous, and the Wicked. Those categories begin in the heart, but they manifest in observable behaviors. You can discern the emotional state of a person through their words and deeds. King David put it this way: “I have a message from God in my heart concerning the sinfulness of the wicked: There is no fear of God before their eyes. In their own eyes they flatter themselves too much to detect or hate their sin. The words of their mouths are wicked and deceitful; they fail to act wisely or do good.” (Psalm 36:1-3).
I prayed for the President yesterday. I prayed that he would follow the advice of a famous King whose 40-year term was marked by the blessing of God. Here’s Solomon’s wisdom for the President (and, for me) to heed: “Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the duty of all mankind. For God will bring every deed into judgment, including every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil.” (Ecclesiastes 12:13-14).
The next 18 months – leading to the 2020 elections – will become increasingly toxic, and the daily grenade volleys will attempt to get us off-course. My plan: take Solomon and Peter to heart, and make “God-fearing” the #1 character quality for any candidate seeking my support…