Voices of Faith: Does God control who becomes our leader?

God meant it for good

Rabbi Mark Levin of Congregation Beth Torah, Overland Park, Kan.: The Bible demonstrates how God’s greater purposes are achieved through the events of history. For instance, Joseph’s descent into Egypt with the entire Hebrew people achieved the slavery predicted in Genesis 15, but the same results might have occurred with a different series of events. Otherwise, Joseph’s brothers would not have been culpable for their deeds. As Joseph says at the end of Genesis, “You meant it for evil, but God meant it for good.”

Nonetheless, we are entirely responsible for our actions. God grants free will. Corrupt dictators are not God’s agents. God’s purpose of the world’s redemption was dragged off course while humanity cared for those whose lives Hitler destroyed. We have the opportunity and the responsibility to choose our government. Our representatives’ moral choices fall partially on our shoulders. It’s not that they do not bear the heavy burden of taking the lead. But we must direct their actions, through our communication and votes, to achieve that which is right. It’s difficult work.

Therefore, it is we who control our leadership, and we who are responsible that they execute our will. God does not select leaders. God shows us the right path. We are free to choose. Likewise, we collectively bear the weight of leaders’ positive or negative achievements. God watches us, but the selection is exclusively our own.

Remember the Prince of Peace

The Rev. Betty Hanna-Witherspoon, pastor of Ebenezer A.M.E. Church: What a challenging question coming so soon after our national elections. African Methodists are a people who believe that Christians should represent the voices of the prophets and the ministry of Jesus in and to the world. We believe that faith compels us not only to pray, but to advocate for justice.

We have learned, however, that we can differ on what justice means in a particular moment. Therefore, we take our understanding, work hard for what we believe, and acknowledge that the outcome is a product of faith, work and the mystery that we name God. We believe that God is always in control, but God requires our hands and feet to accomplish God’s work in the world.

In this holy season African Methodists remember that God has already decided who heads our political state. Isaiah 9 declares that God has given us a king (a political leader), “a child has been born to us, authority rests upon his shoulders; and he is named Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace … and there shall be endless peace … with justice and righteousness.” It is this sure knowledge that has allowed us to persevere when we didn’t understand why Earthly leaders were in place.