Our leaders and our critiques

A few weeks ago I came across a calendar of “Bush-isms”. They are quotes from President Bush. There is a definite slanted opinion in their compilation, highly critical.

I also see bumper stickers, hear news stories and read articles that insult and degrade our various leaders. Even among themselves they run smear campaigns during election years such as this one. I find it highly objectionable.

Should we as Christians participate in these activities? Should we insult, critique, mock and otherwise drag down our leaders or purchase calendars of “Bush-isms”?

The answer, of course, is no. Ephesians 5:4 reads, “and there must be no filthiness and silly talk, or coarse jesting, which are not fitting, but rather giving of thanks”.

As addressed in many places in the Bible, we must be extremely careful with our speech, written or spoken. Even “silly talk” and “coarse jesting” (not all jesting) are forbidden.

And that is the general direction, direction for our treatment of all people. Should it differ for leaders?

Actually, it should. But not in liberty – we must guard our speech even more concerning our leaders. The origin of this understanding comes from Exodus 22:28, “You shall not revile God, nor curse a ruler of your people”.

As a rule, most people object due to the Old Testament context. Although people are not yet marrying animals (Exodus 22:19), people still use the Old Testament as a place to pick and choose based on their own feelings which commands they obey.

Both Jesus and Paul show their obedience to the command against cursing our leaders. In John 18:19-23 Jesus is confronted with the accusation of answering the high priest improperly:

The high priest then questioned Jesus about his disciples and his teaching. Jesus answered him, “I have spoken openly to the world. I have always taught in synagogues and in the temple, where all Jews come together. I have said nothing in secret. Why do you ask me? Ask those who have heard me what I said to them; they know what I said.” When he had said these things, one of the officers standing by struck Jesus with his hand, saying, “Is that how you answer the high priest?” Jesus answered him, “If what I said is wrong, bear witness about the wrong; but if what I said is right, why do you strike me?”

No witness is given as to any wrong Jesus said in His reply. The high priest would have loved if He said something wrong. They were looking for anything with which they could charge Him.

After Jesus’ glorification Paul recognizes the same command in Acts 23:5. Paul has just been struck at the command of the high priest. Paul answers back, “God is going to strike you, you whitewashed wall! Are you sitting to judge me according to the law, and yet contrary to the law you order me to be struck?” (v.3). Even though Paul correctly judges the situation, when he is rebuked he replies, “I did not know, brothers, that he was the high priest, for it is written, ‘You shall not speak evil of a ruler of your people’”.

We can see that our actions, especially our words, must be kept in check when confronting or questioning our leaders. The United States is founded on an important foundation where leaders can be confronted and questioned. But the Bible tells us that our leaders should not be the object of our “course jesting” or our “curse”s or “reviling”s.