In the aftermath of last night’s historic re-election of President Barack Obama, we as believers need to understand a fundamental characteristic of God’s nature—His passive wrath. When a nation re-elects the most pro-abortion candidate who has ever held office, and when a nation sanctions and legitimizes gay marriage (Maine and Maryland are the first states to officially endorse it by popular vote), and when our own state of Colorado legalizes marijuana, and when foreign policy debacles are conveniently covered up, and when a nation amasses trillions of dollars in debt, it becomes evident God has unleashed his passive wrath.
His passive wrath is different than his active wrath. We often think that God’s wrath is where He pours out His anger on a nation in judgment—the Sodom and Gomorrah type of wrath where fire rains down from heaven. In the Old Testament God would punish the pagan nations, but yet He also sent Israel into 70 years of Babylonian captivity for their gross idolatry. This is God’s active wrath.
The passive wrath of God is described in the first chapter of Romans. Romans 1:18 states, “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth.” Because of man’s idolatry and exchanging God’s glory for created images and through sexual perversion, God gives sinners up to their passions. In Romans 1:24, Paul writes, “Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves.”
Instead of raining down fire on sinners, God simply gave them up to their passions. God gave them up to their lusts. God’s wrath was unleashed on them, but it was where He just let them go their own way. Could it be in America that we are already under His passive wrath and God is saying that He is giving us as a nation up to our own passions? Sometimes God’s wrath is actually giving people what they want and allowing the natural course of evil to take its toll without His intervention at all. We need to remember the words of Proverbs 14:34 “Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people.”
So what are some lessons to be learned from the election?
First of all, we live in a pluralistic, post-modern world where Christian values are being even more marginalized. We as Christians are “elect exiles” (1 Peter 1:1) who are strangers in a strange land. Toto, we’re not in Kansas anymore! We have seen first hand the pulse of our nation’s ethos in this national election. An ethos where the conservative Christian values of past generations have been eclipsed by moral relativism, gross immorality, exorbitant materialism, and pleas for tolerance and diversity.
This is no cause for fear, but a reality check. God’s people have always been a holy minority, not a moral majority. God’s people have always been on the fringes of society. The nation of Israel lived in the shadows of Egypt and Babylon. The early Christian church lived under the cruel oppression of the Roman Empire. Why would we think that we would somehow have a privileged status free of persecution or marginalization?
In 1 Peter 4:12–16 we are challenged with these words: “ Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. But let none of you suffer as a murderer or a thief or an evildoer or as a meddler. Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in that name. “
Yet there is hope.
Secondly, this gives us more of an opportunity to make disciples, be salt and light and see the gospel as the power to transform this nation—not power politics. A political party will not cure the ills of our nation. Psalm 20:7 states, “Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the LORD our God.” In other words, some trust in the Democratic Party, some trust in the Republican Party, some in the economy, some in the Supreme Court, some in the military and some in national healthcare, but as believers, our only trust is in our Sovereign God.
Regardless of who God ordains to be in the White House, our mandate as believers has never changed. We are called to make disciples of all nations through the proclamation of the gospel in the power of the Holy Spirit. We can trust that when God’s people are obedient to this commission, He will call out His elect from around the world through the spread of the gospel, and that sinners will be saved. The only true key to national transformation comes in disciples who make disciples who make disciples and who then in turn make disciples.
Thirdly, God’s kindness in not unleashing his active wrath on America is meant to lead us to repentance. While we see the devastating effects of God’s passive wrath in a “hands off approach” to sinners plunging headlong into sin, God still hasn’t brought a national calamity upon us of “Biblical proportions”. This restraining grace God has shown our nation is not meant as an excuse for us to continue into more sin, but to lead us to mourn that sin and to seek repentance in Christ alone as our only hope. Paul gives us these sobering words in Romans 2:4–5: “Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance? But because of your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed.”
At the end of the day, God alone is sovereign and on His throne. He sets up presidents and tears down presidents by His omnipotent will alone. Daniel 2:20–21 says, “Blessed be the name of God forever and ever, to whom belong wisdom and might. He changes times and seasons; he removes kings and sets up kings; he gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to those who have understanding”.
We are not those who fear nor have no hope. We are not those who fret and worry. Instead, we are those who live as citizens of another Kingdom and our blessed hope is in Jesus Christ and His glorious gospel. As good citizens of the kingdom of this world, we must make it a priority to pray for our president and current leaders. Paul tells us in 1 Timothy 2:1–2to “First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way.”
So Christian, in light of yesterday’s results, don’t fret. Don’t worry. Don’t panic. God has ordained it to come to pass and His ways are higher than our ways and we may be confused and disappointed. Yet in light of our disappointment and in light of God’s passive wrath, praise be to God that His wrath was poured out on Jesus in our place and by His substitutionary atonement He has purchased us to be His people to live forever with Him. When Christ comes again in glory to make all things new, He will not be riding a donkey or an elephant, but a white horse as the King of kings and Lord of lords!