I think, in my lifetime, I’ve never been part of such a time as this, where people are so divided over what they think is right versus what is wrong.
I’m speaking of President Duterte; his unconventional, even controversial ways of implementing the changes he wants to see in our country. So much has already been said and written about him and his methods, and while I have my own opinions on the matter, I’m not here to write about those things. Rather, I want to address this post to fellow Christians who, like me, struggled or are struggling with how to respond to what we are seeing and hearing on the news, and what we are reading on social media and the Internet.
First, as Christians, how should we treat President Duterte?
His presidency is ordained by God. Therefore, we are to live in submission to his authority.
Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God. Romans 13:1
Secondly, what does the Bible say about speaking evil or blaspheming God-ordained rulers?
And Paul, earnestly beholding the council, said, Men and brethren, I have lived in all good conscience before God until this day.
2 And the high priest Ananias commanded them that stood by him to smite him on the mouth.
3 Then said Paul unto him, God shall smite thee, thou whited wall: for sittest thou to judge me after the law, and commandest me to be smitten contrary to the law?
4 And they that stood by said, Revilest thou God’s high priest?
5 Then said Paul, I wist not, brethren, that he was the high priest: for it is written, Thou shalt not speak evil of the ruler of thy people.
In the opening verses of Acts 23, we see Paul standing before the Sanhedrin, addressing them to defend the gospel and his actions. As he spoke, men beside him were commanded to hit Paul on the mouth, to which Paul responded angrily and carelessly with a curse against Ananias, high priest of the Sanhedrin. Paul was rebuked and in humility, admitted that he had done a wrong thing by speaking evil against Ananias.
Thou shalt not revile the gods, nor curse the ruler of thy people. Exodus 22:28
This part of the story could have been left out of the Bible, but everything that is in the Bible, God has a purpose and a lesson. Aside from this being contrasted to how Jesus responded against those who hit him, I believe this also teaches us that regardless of who is in authority, be it Stalin, Hitler, Trump, Obama or Duterte, we are to honor them (context, of course, as long as it does not contradict obedience to God’s commands, which are paramount)
Of course, lest people take this out of context: While Paul’s short outburst was an issue between him and God, God still vindicated and honored him for his confession before men. Therefore we have the assurance that injustice committed by God-ordained authorities will not go unpunished.
The bible talks also of submission to authority:
Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake: whether it be to the king, as supreme;
Or unto governors, as unto them that are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers, and for the praise of them that do well. 1 Peter 2:13-14
Therefore, we must check our hearts if we are sinning in this respect.
Finally, having established President Duterte’s authority, how then do we respond as Christians, whether we are in agreement with Pres. Duterte’s methods or not?
We all know how social media amplifies thoughts and opinions, and how quickly one can go viral or be subject to cyber-bullying.
I have had my moments of posting my thoughts on Facebook. Thankfully, I have not been trolled (since my posts are private) but I’ve seen some spirited discussions from friends, some of them from Christians, partaking of the vitriol, the mockery, the sarcasm, the ridicule, the hate, the anger.
I took a step back and asked myself, is this what God wants from His people? How can we be salt and light to the world if in our Facebook posts, our conversations, and our actions, we contribute to the confusion, hate, anger, and distrust, whether intentionally or unintentionally?
Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be salted? it is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men.
Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid.
Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house. Matthew 5:13-15
What then sets us apart from the people who do not know God?
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying we shouldn’t be vigilant of what’s happening; that we should turn a blind eye or live as if everything is fine. I’m not even saying we should not complain, or not have any say at all.
I’m saying, as Christians, what do our actions (posting critical thoughts and articles, engaging in debates or arguments) achieve?
- Does it glorify God? (1 Corinthians 10:31)
Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.
- Does it build up other people? (Ephesians 4:29)
Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers.
- Does it promote unity in the body of Christ? (1 Corinthians 1:10)
Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment.
- Does it point people to Christ? (Matthew 5:16)
Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.
I’m saying, as Christians, we ought to exercise more restraint, especially in this day and age of social media where it’s so tempting to join the fray and let our thoughts be heard, because the world is looking at us. Just because we can doesn’t mean we should.
All things are lawful for me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but all things edify not. 1 Corinthians 10:23
I’ve realized, more than ever, we ought to pray. In prayer, we can bring all our complaints, cares, worries, fears, and anxieties over what is happening in our country.
Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. Philippians 4:6
I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; For kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty. 1 Timothy 2:1-2
In prayer, we acknowledge that we are sinful and tend to worry. In prayer, we bring all these things to the proper authority. There, God will meet us and assure us He is sovereign.
As I began to think about these things, I checked my heart and motivation. What did I hope to achieve? To have more people on my side? (nope) Knock some sense into them? (probably) Just air my grievance for friends to know where I stand? (a little)
Ultimately, to what end?
Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and these other social media platforms, are powerful platforms. They are neutral in themselves. We can either choose to use these platforms to glorify God, or turn people away from God, through our words and actions. My prayer is that we choose to use it in a God-honoring way.
I am still learning these lessons, and in the past have failed by sharing my thoughts needlessly. I have realized, more than anyone, it is God to whom I should be sharing my thoughts and anxieties, and allow Him through His Spirit to work through my heart; to help me be prayerful instead of critical; to see the good instead of the bad. Situations do not make character; they reveal them. My prayer for you and I is that we will develop the spiritual maturity in responding, as we ought to.