God and the Transition of Power
There is none.
What?!! We’ve have just gone through a well scripted national process of moving from one president to the next, from one political party to another, from one ideology to another underlying philosophy of national life. It was not a military coup. One president and first lady welcomed the next president and first lady into the presidential residences with grace. The well broadcast ceremony of taking the oath of office was observed. The new president and first lady went to their luncheon, parade, celebrations and the past president and first lady walked up the steps to Executive One, flew away from the White House and on to a much deserved vacation.
Transfer of power, right?
Well, across the nation there were many who said “No.” “He’s not my president” was a slogan heard over and over again. “He is an illegitimate president” was proclaimed by some of our most established elected leaders. “This is my country and I am not giving it back” was heard being said by many millennials. “We are drawing a line and not allowing anyone, president or not, to demean us with his words or his actions” was an underlying theme of protest marches supporting women across this nation.
Transfer of power, right? “Never” seems to be the response from some.
Yet in our nation we follow laws. Our laws allow demonstration and protest, an avenue of free speech, but not anarchy. Our laws state that “There is a new sheriff in town” as some supporters of the new president would say. The Electoral College took its vote and that vote announced a victor from the national election process. As a nation of law, whether a group of individuals like it or not, a new leader has legally been sworn into office. The emotional like or dislike, even though real, is not the new reality.
Transfer of power, right? The law of the land says “Yes.”
My opening statement is not addressed in the realities of what I have just said. I said, “With God, there is no transfer of power.” “Is God blind?” “No.” “Does God care about what is going on in our nation pro or con?” “Yes.” So what do I mean when I say, “With God there is no transfer of power?”
I have been a Presbyterian minister for almost 40 years. The new president and I share this religious affiliation even though I don’t recognize many of our core beliefs within the actions or attitudes of the president. One of the underlying tenants of the Reformed Tradition, the theological description of our core beliefs, is that God is omnipotent, omniscient, and sovereign.
God is omnipotent. By God’s nature God is all powerful. From creation to re-creation, from the power to heal to the power to call a person home, God is all powerful. From the power to install or to remove those in office, God is all powerful. From the determination to enforce or to forgive, God is all powerful. From the decision to use those who obey God as well as those who disobey God, God is all powerful. Such is the nature of God.
Power in and of itself can be terrifying. Nuclear energy is tremendously powerful. In the right hands it can be of great service to humanity. In the wrong hands it is devastating. God’s omnipotence in and of itself also falls into this category. We also believe that…
…God is omniscient … God is all-knowing. This part of God’s nature could be very unsettling if we did not also believe that God is good. Therein, the all-powerful One uses that power in a good way not only in the moment but also in relation to how a moment fits into history as it unfolds. As some have said, “God is good all the time. All the time God is good.”
For me, this blending of omnipotence and omniscience might best be seen by comparing God’s nature with that of a loving parent or a skilled and compassionate physician. A parent might choose to discipline their child (creating some element of pain) so the child can learn and mature. At times a parent may allow a child to do certain behaviors so they can learn from the natural consequences an action produces. Hopefully a more powerful and more knowledgeable adult can help a child grow through those decisions.
Think of the role of a physician in the healing process. A physician must discuss difficult realities with their patient. When the best and most loving decision to advance healing is surgery, and the decision to perform surgery has been made, the physician uses their power and the knowledge (creating pain and suffering) so that the road to healing can begin.
To me these are human images of the heart of an omnipotent and omniscient God.
God is sovereign. Even though there are many other descriptors that we use to define the nature and character of God, God’s sovereignty – God’s rule – is the one that to me is most grand. In Mark 1:15, at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry, he proclaimed,
The Kingdom of God is at hand (near), repent and believe this good news.
In the Lord’s Prayer (Matt. 6:9f) Jesus taught his disciples to begin that prayer by saying:
Our father who are in heaven, hallowed be thy name.
Thy Kingdom come, they will be done on earth (as it already is) in heaven.
Simply put, Jesus was acknowledging that God is sovereign, God is in control.
- We may or may not like the course of a health episode, but God is sovereign/in control.
- We may or may not like the course of an election, but God is sovereign/in control.
- We may or may not like the transition of power, but God is sovereign, God is in control.
Transfer of power? From God’s stand point, from the standpoint of eternity, NO.
This statement does raise another and final question for this blog: if there is no transition of power because God has ALL power and God IS in control, then what are we to do when those with earthly power behave in a way that is in opposition to this sovereignty of God? Let me challenge you with three things.
First, remember that when you choose one direction, one course of action, you are by default rejecting many others. The kingdom I choose determines my course of action. When I choose to walk in the Kingdom of God that choice takes precedence over the Kingdoms of this world.
Second, stand for God’s Kingdom and the principles upon which it is based. This is part of our Judeo-Christian heritage. Moses stood against the Pharaoh. David stood against Goliath. Isaiah stood against Ahaz. Jesus stood against the Sanhedrin. Peter and John demonstrated this opposition when they were told to no longer speak about Jesus, they said:
Judge for yourself whether it is right in God’s sight to obey you rather than God. For we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard. Acts 4:19
Third, pray. Regardless of which side of a political equation you may be on, we are commanded to pray for those who lead the nation in which we find ourselves (1 Timothy 2:1-7). Nero was emperor of Rome when Paul uttered those words. Nero was no friend of God’s Kingdom. Prayer commanded then. Prayer is commanded today as well.
By doing these three simple yet profound actions we will continue being the salt and light of the world (Matthew 5:13-16), two qualities Jesus said his followers are and are to be.