Updated: Jun 7, 2022
If you live in America, you have seen this sign, flag, bumper sticker, or t-shirt. If you missed it here is the Associated Press’s quick history of the genesis of this phrase.
“It started at an Oct. 2 NASCAR race at the Talladega Superspeedway in Alabama. Brandon Brown, a 28-year-old driver, had won his first Xfinity Series and was being interviewed by an NBC Sports reporter. The crowd behind him was chanting something at first difficult to make out. The reporter suggested they were chanting “Let’s go, Brandon” to cheer the driver. But it became increasingly clear they were saying: 'F—- Joe Biden.’”
So, to be clear the phrase “let’s go Brandon” is a euphemism for a four-letter word that starts with “F” — and it isn’t farm — Joe Biden. With the tumultuous events following the 2020 election hostility has grown with the 46th president of the United States. From the belief that there was widespread voter fraud, to more outlandish claims of conspiracy, conservative America could no longer stand this newly elected president.
So why is this wrong?
There are two texts that address how Christians should interact with the government. These texts are Romans 13, and 1 Peter 2. The specific text I believe applies to this phrase is from 1 Peter 2:17. In it, Peter has affirmed much of what Paul states in his letter to the church in Rome, but then he says this:
Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor.
Here is where the rubber meets the road for the phrase “let’s go, Brandon.” Peter is calling Christians to “Honor the emperor.”
You might be thinking what many conservative Christians have supplanted, “Well, Peter never knew the kind of injustice and evil that our current president has either committed or allowed.” And this is true, Peter didn’t know the circumstances of how our president would come into the office, or how he would champion blatantly anti-christian sentiments. What Peter knew was far worse. In Peter’s time, the Roman Empire controlled much of the Mediterranean, including Jerusalem and modern-day Israel. At that time emperor Nero was the head of state and conducted some of the most atrocious crimes against humanity, specifically directed toward Christians. Emperor Nero would drag Christians behind horses until they died, and he would dip Christians in oil and set them on fire in his garden for all to see (among the many ways he persecuted the early church). Peter knew about this as he wrote this letter. Peter was not ignorant of what was going on. In fact, it was under the rule of Nero, that Peter would be executed. Understanding this context helps us understand what Peter was calling fellow Christians to in the first century, and what God is calling us to in the twenty-first century.
To make it clear you have a right - in the United States - to criticize, any authorities policy, or agenda. You can disagree with the president, yet the Bible calls you to still, "honor the Emperor."
“But Joe Biden stole the election” you might argue.
Sure, if that were true does that change how we should respond?
Charles Hodge says it this way,
“All magistrates of whatever grade are to be regarded as acting by divine appointment; not that God designates the individuals, but that it being his will that there should be magistrates, every person, who is in point of fact clothed with authority, is to be regarded as having a claim to obedience, founded on the will of God.”
He then continues,
“That is, we are to obey all who are in actual authority over us, whether their authority be legitimate or usurped, whether they are just or unjust. The actual reigning emperor was to be obeyed by the Roman Christians, whatever they might think as to his title to the scepter.”
To put it plainly, Charles Hodge is saying, Christians ought to submit to those who are in authority over them, even if how they got there was wrong.
To qualify the principle of submission to the government, we should never submit to the law or decree of any government or authority figure if they are calling us to commit sin. Then - and only then - can Christians choose to submit to the highest authority, the word of God.
Yet, even if a government or authority calls you to commit sin, you are still bound to honor them.
“What if the ruler breaks the rules? Isn’t the Constitution the real authority?”
This passage doesn’t address this specifically, but it sheds light on this if we look at the proper context. Rome had laws, including laws against murder, yet Nero broke those laws when he persecuted the early church. Our Constitution is not an authority, because it is not a person. It is a declaration of war, and the bill of rights is the law. This doesn’t mean that we can break laws because we should only submit to people. What this means is that we should submit to the person in charge to uphold those laws, even if they themselves don’t hold those laws up.
To Be Blunt
We are called to submit to every authority, along with honor those people who are in authority over us. Saying, wearing, or promoting the phrase “let’s go, Brandon,” is sinful. It is sinful because it goes directly against the biblical command that Peter lays out for us 1 Peter 2:17.
Why would God care about this?
Because all of life is rooted in submission to authority. I must submit to my boss. My wife must submit to me. Our children must submit to my wife and me. Citizens must submit to the government. Athletes must submit to their coaches. And above all, everyone must submit to God. To thwart submission in any relationship is the same — in God’s eye — as thwarting our submission to him.
And this is the human problem. Going back to the garden, we have wanted to run from our duty to trust and obey God’s great commands and decide what is right and wrong for ourselves. All throughout scripture you see this pattern play out, of humanity choosing time and time again, to define what is right apart from God. And time and time again you see humanity getting themselves into deeper and deeper darkness.
The exception to the rule is the person of Jesus. Whereas Adam was promised life in paradise for his submission to God, Jesus was promised death for his submission to the Father. Jesus went to the cross not because he was sinful, but because he submitted to God the Father. Submission is rooted and grounded in the cross of Jesus. To say that I don’t need to submit is to undermine the work of Jesus.
Jesus submitted to the Father, because we couldn’t, because we couldn’t bear the perfect wrath of the Father that should have been directed at us.
To thwart submission is to deny the cross. To dishonor the Emperor is to dishonor your Savior.