Four years ago I made a pledge to President Donald Trump. Today, I make a similar pledge to President Joe Biden. I do so with full knowledge that my highest allegiance belongs to Christ, my King, and to his church, for whom he came and died. And yet my King has given specific decrees concerning my relationship to all earthly powers. In submission to these commands, I make this pledge to President Biden and invite my fellow followers of Christ to join me.
1. Let us pledge to show honor to this president. For the last four years, Donald Trump was my president. Because the election was contentious and Hillary Clinton won the popular vote, many Americans claimed that Donald Trump was not their President. But as I noted then, this would be a surprise to the Founders of our nation. We are a nation governed by laws. We believe that the law is king (Lex Rex) and in the United States, the Constitution has the final say.
Just as Donald Trump was the duly elected president of the United States, so now is Joe Biden. Though questions remain regarding the election of 2020, the Constitution endured, the Republic held, and according to the Constitution, Joe Biden is my President. Like all Presidents before him, he has been placed in this position by the sovereign hand of God who “removes kings and sets up kings.” Therefore, as with President Trump, I am bound to show honor and respect to him for the office he holds (1 Peter 2:17; Ro. 13:1). In the words of John Calvin, “The first duty of subjects toward their magistrates is to think most honorably of their office, which they recognize as a jurisdiction bestowed by God” (Institutes, 4:20:22).
2. Let us pledge to hold President Biden accountable to his promise to serve all Americans. Showing honor to a President does not mean he is above our judicious criticism. Just as no President is above the law prescribed in the Constitution, no President is above the law of God revealed in Scripture. Citizens of the United States have every right to expect their Presidents to be honorable people. As George Washington wrote in his Farewell Address in 1796, “It is substantially true that virtue and morality is a necessary spring of popular government. The rule indeed extends with more or less force to every species of free government. Who that is a sincere friend to it can look with indifference upon attempts to shake the foundation of the fabric?…Can it be, that Providence has not connected the permanent felicity of a nation with its virtue?” The Founders understood that our experiment in self-government would not survive unless our citizens were both educated and virtuous. Every President has a duty to model that virtue which is necessary for our Republic to endure. Every citizen has a duty to expect that conduct of our Presidents.
President Biden has promised to be the President of all Americans, and that is a formidable task in this divisive age. In President Biden’s statement on religious freedom, he promised to guard the cherished principles of religious freedom and “work shoulder to shoulder with Americans of all beliefs to preserve our nation’s founding promise as an enduring citadel of diversity, unity, and mutual respect.” Though our nation is more religiously diverse now than at our founding, we can, and should, hold President Biden accountable to this pledge to uphold the First Amendment protection that the church has enjoyed since our nation’s founding.
3. Let us pledge to pray for President Biden and Vice President Harris. I have significant objections to several of the policies that President Biden endorses. I will continue to oppose him on these issues. But as I noted four years ago, it is easier to criticize someone we disagree with than to pray for them. When Jesus commanded us to love our enemies and pray for them he did not add “except political enemies.” Very few of us can imagine the immense burdens and countless pressures that Presidents must endure. In every decision they make, a considerable portion of the country will object, often with rage. Our country can never be united in the sense that we agree on every policy or practice. But we can be united in our founding principles of civil discourse, mutual respect, honest debate, principled compromise, and sage statesmanship. Let us pray that President Biden and Vice President Harris lead us by example in how we talk to and about our fellow Americans. I ask the Lord to surround them both with wise counselors and give them the humility to act on that counsel. They are the instruments God has chosen for this chapter in our nation’s history, and they will need our prayers (1 Timothy 2:1–5).5