I recently posted this on my Facebook page as I’ve seen more and more Christians calling our government officials insulting names in light of their COVID-19 efforts:
Most people have been in agreement and very supportive. A few were distracted by my analogy of “How would you like it if you were doing the best you could at your job and people were belittling and insulting you for it?”… saying that our government officials are not doing the best they can (therefore we can insult them). I wasn’t expecting that distraction to be there, as it’s obviously not the point of the post, but decided to keep it in after people started commenting. But what really got me thinking was the few commenters who referred to Jesus and John the Baptist calling 1st century religious leaders a “brood of vipers.” Saying that since Jesus and John set this example, then we by all means can do that to our government officials today.
Let me briefly explain why Jesus and John the Baptist got to call their (religious) leaders names, but you don’t get to call your governing officials names.
Jesus is God-in-the-flesh. He knows all. He is the God who will judge every soul on Judgment Day. He was/is holy, righteous, and perfect. He is the only one who has the authority to cast judgment.
You do not know all. You do not have that type of perfection or authority, therefore you do not get to call people broods of vipers the way he did. This would be the pot calling the kettle black, as they say. This is also why Jesus got to turn over the tables of the money changers in the temple and chase them out with a whip, but you and I in our fallen, broken, sinful state, do not get to act in such authoritatively judgmental ways.
John the Baptist was a divine prophet, coming from a long line of prophets who spoke the very God-inspired, authoritative words of the Bible. He was God’s mouthpiece. You do not speak the God-inspired, authoritative words of the Bible and you are not God’s mouthpiece.
(As a related aside: Jesus and John were criticizing religious officials, which in their context would have been very different than the government likes of Caesar, Pilate, and Herod, which we don’t see any name calling of, yet who were heinously corrupt and even savage. Jesus and John’s concern was how God’s people, specifically their leaders, were not living in accordance with the Scriptures. I don’t want to distract from my main point here, only to point out the irony of those trying to make their point that Jesus and John’s criticisms and name calling allows us to insult our government officials today. This is apples and oranges.)
So we have covered what you and I don’t get to do based on the model of Jesus and John the Baptist. Let’s now look at what the Bible unabashedly commands us to do, which will be a repeat if you read the Scriptures in my Facebook post:
Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. Ephesians 4:29
I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people—for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. 1 Timothy 2:1-2
Remind the people to be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready to do whatever is good, to slander no one, to be peaceable and considerate, and always to be gentle toward everyone. Titus 3:1-2
There’s no wiggle room here. There’s no grey area. There’s no “yeah but Jesus did this… or John the Baptist did that…” Those phrases remind me of my 6 and 8-year-old when they get angry because Mommy and Daddy get to stay up past 9:30pm, but they don’t. That’s because we are Mommy and Daddy and they are our children, and we gave them a specific command of what they are to do within that authoritative relationship. Jesus is God, we are not. He commands us on what we are to do, and we are to do it. He has clearly laid out his commands here to us.
It’s also worth adding that Jesus commands us to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us. (Matthew 5:44)
Our political system is corrupt and broken, no doubt about it. Some politicians create this corruption, while others are trying to reform it. You can (and often should!) disagree with your politicians. You can protest your disagreement. You can protest injustice. But you are commanded by God to do it in a wholesome, helpful, building up of others, beneficial to others, prayerful, thankful, peaceful, quiet, godly, holy, subject, obedient, good, not slandering, peaceful, considerate, gentle, and loving way.