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When God Ordains Horrible Leaders: Our Response

“He’s not my president. I didn’t vote for him!”

This phrase has become increasingly popular in our age. It has come to stand for rugged individualism and a “don’t tread on me” attitude from both the left and the right. At its base level, it simply communicates “I do not support this leader and their views and way of doing things.”

Yet one of the clearest realities for the Christian is that the President, or any earthly leader, is not our ultimate authority—God is. God alone is sovereign and in charge. We would do well to remember this.

How then should we respond to leaders who we don’t respect or struggle to agree with? We begin by recognizing that fundamental to the leader’s authority is that God has placed that person in authority. Romans 13:1 declares, “there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God.” Or Daniel 2:21 shows us that God “removes kings and sets up kings.”

The Bible clearly states that every leader and authority has been instituted and put in place by God, whether we like them or not. R.C. Sproul has famously stated that there “are no rogue molecules.” We might take it one step further and say neither are there any rogue authorities if God institutes the leaders of this world.

What About Horrible Leaders?

But sometimes there are truly horrible leaders placed in authority in this world. Right? Whether it’s a dictator exploiting his people, or a president whose social policies from a Christian point of view are truly horrible. There are horrible leaders in this world.

In the Biblical account, we think perhaps of Pharaoh. The king of Egypt mistreated the Hebrew nation through slavery and injustice. Pharaoh exploited the people of God for personal gain at great cost to their lives. Pharaoh was a horrible leader.

Yet Pharaoh was put in place, ordained to lead, by God. God says as much about Pharaoh in Exodus 9:16, “But I have raised you up for this very purpose, that I might display my power to you, and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.” God emphatically declares that He has been raised up, put into authority, Pharaoh.

What do we do when God ordains horrible leaders like Pharaoh? Here are three possible responses to leaders we don’t like.

First: Look For Glory

Often God raises up leaders to display His glory. How was the glory of God displayed through the terrible leadership of Pharaoh? By displaying the might and power of God in spite of Pharaoh’s leadership. God accomplished His purpose through Pharaoh, ie. That He “might display [His] power to [him]” and through him.

Without Pharaoh God had no reason to bring plagues to show His strength over life and death with the death of the firstborn and the institution of the Passover or the defeat of the most powerful human authority by the collapse of the waters of the Red Sea. Pharaoh gave reason for God’s display of divinity.

Sometimes the horrible leaders God has instituted are meant to show the majesty and power of God in light of the leader’s injustice and sin. God can use evil people to show the night and day contrast of His might, holiness, and glory. With Pharaoh, He did so so that His name “might be proclaimed in all the earth.” And you better bet those divine plagues were known far and wide in the ancient world.

So on one hand, we can say that perhaps the horrible leader is put in place by God for this very purpose, to open our eyes to the glory and majesty of God alone in comparison. How might God be displaying His glory in light of the horrible leader you struggle with?

Second: Seek Growth

God often calls us to see His power compared to the terrible leader, but sometimes God uses the leader to transform and refine us. When met with an authority we simply can’t get onboard with, someone we very clearly disagree with, God stirs something in us.

Why are you unhappy with this leader? What concerns over their leadership do you hold? God often uses horrible leaders to refine our understanding of what we think.

For Moses, God used Pharaoh to build conviction and purpose in Him, that He would cling to the word of God against that of the word of Pharaoh. That the gods of Egypt would be rejected instead for the Yahweh. Moses was refined by God under the leadership of Pharaoh.

When we are met with leaders contrary to our desires, God can transform us and bring new growth. We study and seek out from the word of God what is right and why we are concerned with the authority. When faced with leaders encouraging gender confusion, legal drug usage, killing of the unborn, we are forced to decide what we believe on the issue.

Often horrible leadership causes us to grow in what we believe. How might God be using the horrible leader to transform you?

Third: Discern Your Response

The last response to horrible leaders over us is how we privately and publicly respond to the leader. We live in a world where our perspective can be public in seconds through social media. We can, and often do, tear down those in leadership publicly. We also do this in private, whether it’s in conversation with a family member or the leader.

The question for the believer is how are we witnesses to the love and truth of Jesus when we respond to leadership we don’t agree with. God would not have us compromise on what He has declared is true, but He would have us respond in a way that is Christ-like and loving.

To the horrible leader in our lives, how might God want us to respond in a way that is Christ-honoring and a witness to the truth of grace in Jesus? Perhaps the sharp attack on the individual in social media is not the best way to accomplish this.

Trusting God Amid Horrible Leaders

At the end of the day, as long as sin is a reality, there will be horrible leaders. How will we respond? Look for God’s glory in the midst of horrible leadership, see how God wants to transform you as you wrestle with the leader, and respond in a way that is Christ-honoring.

We have a tall task in a very broken world. But trust in Jesus, He will empower you to respond well.

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