Reflections on Inauguration Day
I spent a portion of Friday watching the inauguration proceedings. As I watched the proceedings, I found myself encouraged on by some statements that were made by our new president, and troubled by several as well. To a degree, that is to be expected. No person is all right, or all wrong, and so I should have expected that I would be encouraged and troubled at the same time.
As I think about the speech of our president, I think there are some things that are worthy of commending. What i saw in our new president is a heart for the rural and downtrodden regions, and blue collar workers that have been hurt by our current economic culture. He wants to see people put back to work, and to see struggling areas restored. He hears the pain of the rural and struggling regions, and wants their good. I was encouraged by that.
But I was also deeply troubled by some of the ideas and assumptions I heard, and as I thought about what troubled me, I realized that there were three core ideas that were embedded in the speech that troubled me above all. Set aside our policy differences, his morality issues, and all of the trust issues that surround him, when it came to the speech, there were three ideas from the speech that troubled me above all.
The first idea was that was troubling was the idea that “America united is unstoppable”. “When America is united, America is totally unstoppable”, President Trump declared. All I could think of was Babel. We can’t ascend to God, even if we think we can. The lesson of Babel is that we are always trying to attain a power and prerogative that is not ours. We are not Sovereign and almighty, he is. We stand humble before God. We are not almighty, he is. The only unstoppable force in the universe is the creator of the world, our Triune God. As R.C. Sproul states “No matter who is President, or who holds the house or the Senate, Christ holes the whole world in his hands”. To allow any other assumption into our mind is dangerous, and foolish.
The second idea that troubled me in particular is the idea that “we share one heart, one home, and one glorious destiny”. Nothing could be farther from the truth. America is not given any such promise. The promise of a glorious destiny belongs to the people of God alone, and is rooted in the reality that someday, we shall go before God and hear, “my beloved” and be invited into eternity with him. It is not rooted in anything we accomplish, and it does not belong to this or any other nation. At the root of this statement is what is sometimes called “kingdom confusion”. It’s assuming that what is true about God, and his people and his kingdom, is true about this nation and its leaders. We must not make this category mistake. We must not make the mistake of confusing the president and the nation, with Christ and the kingdom of God. The two are not the same. This is a crucial distinction to remember. On our best days, we face a temptation to give in to kingdom confusion, to think that America and its greatness are somehow synonymous with the kingdom of God, but we must not make that mistake of thinking that the fate of Christianity and the fate of America are linked. Ten thousand years from now the United States will be on the ash-heap of history, but the gospel will still hold its power. Kingdoms rise and kingdom’s fall. The kingdom of God our will last forever. We must not forget this truth.
The third idea that troubled me, and troubled me above all, was the assumption that total allegiance belongs to the state. The President stated “At the bedrock of our politics will be a total allegiance to the United States of America, and through our loyalty to our country, we will rediscover our loyalty to each other. When i head that, it made me pause on the spot. Here’s the problem. That statement holds an eerie resemblance to the demand Rome mad for total allegiance to Rome and Caesar. It’s a demand that we cannot and will not accept, because we owe total allegiance to one name and one name alone, Christ. Christ is Lord and there is no other. The early Christians bled and died because they would not bow the knee to Caesar and give total allegiance to anyone but Christ. The knew that total allegiance does not belong to Caesar or any other earthy power, and that they could not give total allegiance to anyone but Christ. There can be be a temptation to allow our final allegiance to go to the wrong king. We must not fall into the trap of giving our final allegiance to the wrong king. We love this country. We serve this country. We joyfully call it our home for now, but we do not think that this nation, or any other nation deserves total allegiance. That belongs to Christ alone. Jesus said, “Render unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s, and to God that which is God’s” (Mark 12:17). We do not give what belongs to God to Caesar, or any other power, no matter how tyrannical or benevolent. Total allegiance belongs to Christ alone. That is true when the president is a scoundrel, or a hero. It is true every day. Total allegiance never belongs to anyone but Christ.
As we stand on the backside of the inauguration, I encourage you to pray for the nation, and seek its blessing, and prosperity. I encourage you to pray for the president, remembering the worlds of 1 Timothy 2:1-2, “First of all then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgiving 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”. But along with this, I encourage you to know that God alone rules over the affairs of men, that eternity and a glorious destiny is not promised to this or any other nation, and that he, and he alone, deserves total allegiance.