Obama’s speech on education, which he will give today, has caused quite a stir among Christians, most notably on the Desiring God blog.  There, John Piper expressed his excitment over what the President said.  Basically, Obama challenges students to work hard, be responsible, and have a positive attitude with school.  He said that students need to turn off the TV and get off the Xbox.  I couldn’t agree more.

Some Christians try to find a devil behind everything Obama says.  Some Christians will not give “honor to whom honor is owed” (Rom. 13:7).  I think that’s wrong.  I don’t agree with most of Obama’s policies, but I can commend a man when he speaks truth.

With that in mind, I think if you are one of the Christians who believes you cannot applaud something that Obama says because of his other policies/ideas (which very well may be moral failures), then you are ignoring an important theme in Scripture:

  • Remember that King Cyrus was a pagan ruler of a pagan nation, yet he was the Lord’s “anointed,” who was used to redeem his people. God said, “I call you by your name, I name you, though you do not know me…I equip you, though you do not know me” (Isa. 45:1-13). It is clear that God can do good through people who don’t know him personally.
  • Remember that God has common grace on all of creation: “For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust” (Matt. 5:45). This includes Obama and all the unsaved teachers who teach our children.
  • Remember that God loves justice wherever he finds it because God is just: “A false balance is an abomination to the LORD, but a just weight is his delight” (Pr. 11:1). And “A just balance and scales are the LORD’s; all the weights in the bag are his work” (Pr. 16:11). This applies even to Obama and education in the United States.
  • Remember that Obama is a “servant for your good” if you are a believer (Rom. 13:4), whether you agree with him or not. Are some of his policies bad? Yes. Was there anything wrong with what he said in this speech? If there was, it was minimal.  Would you fault your non-Christian employer who demands his employees to work harder instead of showing up late, leaving early, and taking an extra long lunch because he didn’t mention Jesus? I doubt it.
  • Remember, finally, that Paul quoted pagan religions in evangelism and teaching (Acts 17:22-34; Titus 1:12). There are commonalities that we can share with non-believers in order to point them to Jesus. Obama can’t point people to Jesus if he’s not a believer, so we can’t expect him to do that. The job falls on us Christians to find common ground in order to tell him (and others), “Look there! That’s Jesus. He made hard work. He created math and science and English and history. And he gives us strength to learn and write papers and do science projects!  To know this Jesus, that is what our children need the most.”

So we pray for Obama and beg God to let light shine in his heart. But we also give honor to whom honor is due. We don’t encourage our children to be like Obama or a teacher or anyone else (not even John Piper!!!). We point them to the cross, teaching them to be conformed to and led by Jesus. As we do that, we tell them to rejoice in truth wherever it is found because all objective truth is God’s truth. Education is good. Hard work is good. Addiction to TV and Xbox or anything else is bad. We praise God for these truths. He is the author of them.

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12 thoughts on “How Should Christians Respond to Obama’s Education Speech?

  1. Nicly said.

    I would like to say though that the supposition that Obama is not Christian is questionable. While some have attacked the strength and source of his faith, in the end only God can know his heart.

    If a man says to me that he is Christian, then my role is to call him to be one fully… in spirit and in truth.

  2. I agree that only God can know his heart in the end. I don’t want to judge him eternally, but what do we make of the Bible telling us to recognize people by their fruits (Matt. 7; Luke 6; James 2)? Jonathan Edwards, in his great work “The Religious Affections,” would say that people can call themselves Christians all they want, but if there is no Christian fruit, there cannot be Christ.

    1. Matt 7 and Luke 6 also warn about judging others.
      How many Christians in non-ministry jobs could point to clear fruit that outsiders could see?
      How many Christian leaders lack in visible fruit.
      Do we demand this of Obama merely because he is a Democrat, yet judge our friends and ourselves by another measure?

      Perhaps you’re also looking for the wrong fruit? Gal 5 lists some of the fruits of the Spirit. “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires.”

      While I may not agree with many actions by Obama, I do recognise that he shows great love and joy for his family and for the poor as a community organizer & president. He is also more patient, gentle and self-controlled than most people I know.

      What fruit have you been looking for? Is that fruit the fruit of the Spirit, or is it ‘American’ fruit?

  3. What about those Americans who feel he is not even legitimately the President b/c he refuses to settle the issue aor that he surrounds himself with Communist? Why would I give respect to this man? And I feel it is up to all Americans to question this man and his Administration in everything they do.

    1. Hi Jeff,

      How is this an issue though? Within America, people are allowed to associate with whoever they want, even Communists. As to why we should respect him… not because he is good, but because we carry the name of the One who is good.

  4. James,

    Although I have not heard what the President had to say, that is not what is important to me on this issue.

    I believe what is important is that this is a very clear step towards the federal government becoming more involved in our public schools. This is what frightens me and I think that it’s a slippery slope.

    The tensions arises when, although I disagree with most of his political and some of his personal decisions, I know that I am commanded by God to submit, some would even say honor, the authority placed above me for it has been placed there by Him. This is both comforting and discomforting at the same time. God is big and sovereign, and yet sometimes(most of the time), people mess things up.

    *sigh* God is good

    As far as the fruit of Christianity, Paul Washer uses the analogy that you cannot have an encounter with a semi truck and not be re-arranged somehow. Same with Jesus. You cannot help but be re-arranged after an encounter with Jesus.

    Has Mr. President been “re-arranged”? I dunno… but I’ll keep looking.

  5. Honestly…I don’t see what the big deal is. The President is telling kids to stay in school, work hard, and further their education as much as they can.

    There’s nothing wrong with that.

    And if the government involves itself in public education more and more, well, good. A first year teacher in West Virginia gets paid about $30,000 for a year’s worth of work, whereas each state around it teachers get paid significantly more (especially where I am from, since the eastern panhandle is surrounded by three highly populated and well funded states and better teachers go to better teaching positions). With the government involved, West Virginia public education funding would most likely go up, therefore education in West Virginia would likely get better.

    President Bush made visits to schools all over the country, but people didn’t flip out about him doing that. Remember on 9/11 when he was visiting a grade school? I’m sure those parents didn’t mind at all.

    Parents should be thanking Obama for telling kids to put down the remote controls and to take responsibility for their lives.

    Should the citizens question all moves made by Obama? No. The major ones that involve health care and the economy and abortions and the auto industry? Yes.

    If Obama had told the kids to vote democrat when they grow up, or had lobbied for anything other than better education in his speech, then yes, he would have been in the wrong.

    But the thing is, he didn’t.

  6. Also, Vick spoke to students in Philly. Alex Rodriguez spoke to students in Baltimore a couple weeks ago, and has been speaking at high schools across the country all year.

    Two guys that have made terrible decisions in their lives, but there is no public outcry over them speaking to students about making good decisions, working hard and staying in school.

  7. Hi Erik, (re:response to 1st thread)

    You are right that those spiritual gifts may be displayed by non-Christians, yet it is also true that part of coming to Christ is the work of the spirit moving in you.

    It remains that scripture has laid forth those things as spiritual gifts. Is it for us to go against scripture because we do not like what it says? I looked over the Ironman site, and I think it has some interesting material to meditate over, but it does leave out Gal 5 which is a concern as we are not to add or subtract from scripture.

    A better picture may be to look at Gal 5 and consider the source and spirit of these fruits in light of the fullness of scripture.

  8. Wow. I don’t know where to start with all these comments. Let me try to be systematic and short (I’m usually good at the first, poor at the second…that’s why I’m on Twitter, now).

    – Jonathan Edwards book “The Religious Affections” is regarded by many (reformed and non-reformed people) to be one of the greatest books on discerning true new birth. He makes some radical statements in that book, but they are based on Scripture and therefore, not judging. From Twiddle’s argument, it would seem you are saying that Edwards would be judging? If you haven’t read that book, I highly recommend it. By the way, remember that Jesus also said, “Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment” (John 7:24). So there is some sort of judgment that we must do.

    – The comment about Communists came out of nowhere. I don’t know what to say about that. haha

    – Erik, I didn’t see this as a step toward the Federal Government being more involved in public schools. What I saw was that a President is concerned for this nation’s kids and their education. I’m sure there were private schools who watched the address too. After all, we know that even some private schools have shabby education, poor resources, but paint it off as “top-notch” because you pay $3,500 a semester to go there.

    – I do agree with what you said Erik about Paul Washer’s comment. That is a good word. And further, yes, Mormons, Muslims, and heck, even Tom Cruise could have those same qualities. God’s common grace goes far and wide. That’s why not all of us are in prison for rape and murder.

    – Finally, Chuck. This is the key: “The President is telling kids to stay in school, work hard, and further their education as much as they can. There’s nothing wrong with that. ” That’s all I’m driving at. He is our president. Nothing he said was wrong (other than the “your destiny hasn’t been written yet” comment but that’s another blog). So let’s “honor the emperor” (1 Pet. 2:17), as we are called to do.

  9. Hi James,

    Actually my main point is that we seem to hold Obama up to a different standard than Republicans. If we’re going to talk of fruit, then it should be holding all people accountable equally by the same measure.

    We are not told merely ‘not’ to judge, but rather that if we do judge the measure we use will be measured to us as well. It is not that we are to ignore the speck in our brother’s eye, but that we are to deal with our plank first.

    If Obama is outside the body of Christ, then our judgement is rather moot, since we are merely saying that he behaves as an unbeliever. If we measure him as a believer, then the standard we use should be the same as for any believer… not a higher or different standard because he is a Democrat.

    The high standard should be for all of us.

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