The polls have closed and the results are in. Barack Obama will remain the President of the United States for four more years. Many conservative Christians must now decide how to respond. Some will undoubtedly vent their disappointment and frustration, as Twitter feeds aplenty already show. But I wonder if there is another, better response.
The Apostle Paul wrote the following words to his ministry protege in 1 Timothy 2:1-2:
"I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving made for all people -- for kings and those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior."
To put his words in perspective, we reflect on the context in which he wrote them. During his day, the leader of the not-so-free-world was Caesar. Under the rule of this Roman dictator, God's people in Israel were essentially slaves. As I point out in my book, "A Faith of Our Own: Following Jesus Beyond the Culture Wars":
The Romans determined their living conditions and extracted exorbitant taxes to build Roman-style cities that threatened the survival of Israel's culture. The Jewish people in the first century were terrorized by a government that was more oppressive than Saddam Hussein's, more uncooperative than Kim Jong Il's, and as imperialistic as Adolph Hitler's.
Just before Jesus' birth, Roman armies rolled through Galilee, burning down villages and killing innocents. Any who resisted their rule were tortured and often executed to deter mass rebellion. Sometime around or after Jesus' birth, the Roman general Varus gathered the rebels in and around Jesus' hometown and crucified about two thousand men. One might have argued that during the first century, Israel's greatest need was political revolution.
It is in this context that Paul writes, and yet he calls for prayer instead of political revolution. He actually calls the people of Christ to pray for the leader whose government crucified their Lord. This is a stunning statement for first century Christians, and perhaps he offers lesson for modern Americans as well.
Analysts and pollsters will soon be analyzing election result breakdowns, and we can assume that a stout majority of evangelicals (particularly white ones) voted for Mitt Romney. Their candidate lost and today they almost assuredly wrestle with crushing disappointment. Perhaps intead of rising up, they need to kneel down. Maybe rather than protest they need to pray.
For many, this task will not be easy. But then again, following Jesus never is.