President Trump visited the United Kingdom this week. I saw a few posts and articles this morning in regards to the president’s meeting with Queen Elizabeth II.
Many are complaining about the president breaking protocols with the monarch. For instance, there is a tradition that people walk slightly behind the queen. At one point, the president was in front of the queen during her ceremonial inspection of the guard at Windsor Castle.
Oh the humanity!
The comments online talked about how this was an embarrassment, a sign of disrespect, and a president who lacked manners.
There are all of these protocols for meeting a royal.
Men are supposed to bow, women are supposed to curtsy. You’re supposed to walk behind her. You’re not supposed to turn your back to the queen. On first meeting, the queen is supposed to be addressed as “your majesty.”
And as we saw with President Trump breaching some of these protocols, there was criticism.
And that’s just for meeting a person. Think about the respect that Americans have for the queen of a different country. There is an expectation of this reverence for the queen. There’s this expectation of following the rules.
Yet we often have a very casual view of what it would be like to be in the presence of God. God is righteous, holy, set apart. He is awesomely mighty and glorious. And being in his presence also has its own protocols. You don’t just approach the King in any way you want. You approach God on his terms, not yours.
God requires perfection to enter his presence. It takes holiness to be with a holy God. We bristle at that, thrash against that, complain about that. But that is God’s standard.
We are not worthy of that.
You wouldn’t just go to Buckingham Palace and demand an audience with the queen. We don’t approach God on our terms.
It is faith in Jesus who gives us access to God. We are unholy, but Jesus makes a person holy. We are unrighteous, but Jesus makes a person righteous.
The Prophet Isaiah reports one of the great heavenly visions of the Bible in chapter 6.
In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train of his robe filled the temple. 2 Above him stood the seraphim. Each had six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. 3 And one called to another and said:
“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts;
the whole earth is full of his glory!”
4 And the foundations of the thresholds shook at the voice of him who called, and the house was filled with smoke. 5 And I said: “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!”
The presence of God is always depicted as being an awesome and overwhelming experience. As people realize their unworthiness, it’s often a terrifying experience to be in the presence of this holiness.
The good news of the gospel is that Jesus brings us in.
Josh Benner is the associate pastor at Cornerstone Evangelical Free Church in Fergus Falls, Minnesota and has a Master of Divinity from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. He enjoys writing about faith and culture. He lives with his wife Kari in Minnesota.