Great questions! I wish I had the answers to all of them.
While I still stand behind them, “support” and “empower” were my words for Trump, not the Bible’s words for every leader that has ever been or will be. The only thing that Paul makes clear is that opposing God’s ordinance is equal to opposing God. It doesn’t explicitly use the terminology that I did. I used those words at my own liberty for Trump alone.
Ultimately, this passage can be interpreted out to a small extent or a large one.
The smallest would be that Paul was only talking about Nero, which is entirely possible considering his use of present tense. But that would call into question our application of all other present tense speech in the Bible and whether or not it’s a valid use for the texts.
A little further out would be the idea that God appoints all leaders, but not all leaders’ actions remain in His will. This would allow for exceptions like Nero, Hitler, Mao, Hussein, etc., at least from the Christian perspective and set of ethics, considering there were people who actually liked those leaders for different reasons.
Further even more, we arrive at the conclusion that all leaders are appointed, but God allows some leaders to do what we consider bad things to innocent people, all for some reason we’ll never understand. That can spiral into questions like, “Does God punish people still?” and “Why does God allow mass murder?” I don’t have an answer to those either.
Finally, taking the interpretation as far as I can imagine currently, we could say that God appoints all leaders, knows what they’re going to do in their time as a leader, and either doesn’t care or sees a decent reason for the bad things to happen.
In the end, as I wrote, “I can’t tell you what aligning with God’s appointed looks like, especially when that person has been part of such a vast polarization as you have been.” I don’t know which of those interpretations I adhere to, if any of them. Without likening him to Trump or vice versa, Hitler didn’t campaign by actively murdering chunks of the Jewish population. That came later in his rule.
If anything, I think the prayers I outlined for Trump would be good for any leader throughout history.
- Wisdom to perform your duties to the best of your ability and for the best of the American people along with the rest of the world.
- Favor in the eyes of those who disagree with you through your fulfillment of God’s appointment.
- A supernatural ability to further both peace efforts and justice movements alike as they’re required.
- Growth in the vision of establishing God’s kingdom, whatever that looks like for the next four years.
Change out “American” for “German” or “Chinese” or “Rome”, and “four years” for any other length of time, respective to the time period and position, and they’re still beneficial prayers. If we pray those things, then based on the actions of the leader, we either have to come to terms with the idea that God answered them — just not in the way we expected — or He didn’t answer them at all.
Tripping over “support” and “empower” is just a matter of semantics.