Anyone who knows me, knows I'm not a fan of President Obama. I didn't vote for him, and won't when he runs in four years unless he changes his politics drastically. That much change would be less like the proverbial frog turning into a prince, and more like the frog turning into an interstellar spaceship, so it's not likely.
Okay. You get the point. Still, as a disciple of Jesus and a believer in the scriptures, I'm obligated to obey the laws of our land, even when I don't agree with them. Further, I'm obligated to pray for Obama and for all our leaders.
This has posed a problem for me. Obama stands for many things I oppose, and stands against many of the things I support. (This applies to many others in government, but let's just confine this to one official for now.) Some of the things he stands for are just plain wrong, and some—not to mince words—are evil.
But I am not freed of my duty of praying for him, showing him respect, and even doing good toward him. I've struggled with this, and I've been able to pray for him, but it hasn't been a terribly pleasant duty, and it has been hard to put my heart into.
The last thing I want to do is to mouth insincere prayers.
Lately, though, I've received some help in this from what some might call an unlikely source: from Summer Spectacular, our church's version of Vacation Bible School.
Now, when I say "Vacation Bible School", many of you have an image of a group of sweaty kids singing If You're Happy and You Know It and Kum Bah Ya or watching a teacher with a gray bun putting Noah's ark up on a flannelgraph. And you couldn't be further from the reality of Summer Spectacular. We go absolutely all out for Summer Spectacular. It's a full musical performed over three nights (actually performed twice over six nights), with classes for all the kids and the adults, autographs from the characters, prizes, games—the works. It really is as spectacular as the name says.
This year, we put on the story of Esther. For those of you unfamiliar with Esther, it's the story of a young Jewish girl who is selected to be the new queen of Xerxes, the ruler of the Medo-Persian empire. The Jews have been in captivity for many years, and their original captors, the Babylonians, have been supplanted by the Medo-Persians.
In the story, Mordecai, Esther's cousin, saves the king from a plot against his life. This is the same king who keeps the Jews from returning to their homeland, who gets rid of his first queen because she won't appear before him and his nobles at a drunken party, and who has an entire harem of young, beautiful girls, most of whom he sleeps with once and then sends away. He's also the king who later issues an edict to kill all of the Jews in the empire and allowing those who kill them to take all their property.
Let's just say Xerxes is not the world's nicest guy. Let's go a little further and say he makes Obama (or any President I've ever known) look like a saint. And really, you wouldn't expect the king of a great, expanding empire to be a nice guy. It's unlikely he got to such a position by kissing babies and making speeches. Far more likely that his ascent was a bloody one. And yet Mordecai not only saves his life, but honors him as king and ruler.
Now, I've known this story for a long time. But seeing it played out brought it home to me in a new way. A big part of the story is that Mordecai does not give honor where honor is not due. He refuses to bow before Haman, who comes up with the idea of killing all the Jews. But he does honor Xerxes. And the Bible is full of other stories that bring this home in the same way. Joseph honored Pharaoh, even though he was enslaved and imprisoned falsely. Daniel honored the king in the same way that Moredecai did, even though he was sent to the lion's den for refusing to stop his prayers.
Suddenly, it's not so hard to pray for Obama. Now, unlike Mordecai, we live in a representative republic. We get to participate in the political process and even vote. As I understand it, we have a duty to do so. So I'll continue to work for the things I think are right and against those I think are wrong. And I'll cast my votes for those whom I think are best suited to govern. But no matter who wins or loses, I'll continue to pray protection, wisdom, peace and strength for our leaders.
There is a lot more to the story of Esther. It's a great story of courage and deliverance. I found myself cheering for both Mordecai and Esther. But I'll always remember Summer Spectacular for what Mordecai taught me about honoring rulers. Even those I oppose.