Paul wrote to the believers in Phillipi:
“Let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ… standing firm in the spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith.” (Philippians 1:27)
Paul’s earnest instruction to the Philippians was that their “manner of life” (conduct) be worthy of the Gospel of Jesus. The Greek word translated “manner” means, among other things, “recognized as fitting”. Paul is talking about what we see in people, the outside appearances. In essence, Paul is saying let your conduct and the way people perceive you match the fruit of the Spirit that is working within you.
The fruit of the Spirit is “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control….” Jesus warned about false prophets, adding that we would know them by their fruits. Jesus said by contrast the world would know us by our love, which is the greatest of the fruits of the Spirit.
In this context, how do we, as Christians, respond to the things that Donald Trump says and does? Why do we defend him? Why have we tied our destiny to him? Are we making a mistake?
Bear with me for a moment as I lay some groundwork.
If we are born again, if we have been born of the Spirit, the fruit of the Spirit will begin to manifest itself in us. Of course, a new Christian is not likely to have the fruit of a mature Christian who has walked a long time with Christ. A Christian who has expressed belief in God, but who has not really committed his heart to God and to the work of the Holy Spirit in his life may not manifest fruit like the person who has died completely to the old self and submitted wholeheartedly to the work of God within him.
A person who claims to be a Christian, and who consistently bears fruit that is not of the Spirit, may not even be a Christian. The fruit is the telling the tale.
Implicit in this statement is the assumption that we should judges others who call themselves Christians. We have learned, largely through the abhorrence of popular culture, not to be judgmental, but we should not be taking our direction on how to conduct ourselves from the world. What Paul says about judging people may surprise you.
In fact, we Christians tend to do exactly the opposite of what Paul instructs us to do!
Paul tells us that we have no business judging those outside the church. Rather, we are told that we should be judging those inside the church. In fact, the only people we are not to judge, at this time anyway, are the people outside the church. Paul says, “God will judge those outside the church.”
It isn’t our business to judge nonbelievers, but to judge believers!
People outside the church have not submitted to Christ. We shouldn’t expect them to bear the fruit of the Spirit, because they don’t claim to have the Spirit. They haven’t “signed up” with God. Those within the church, however, claim to have the same Spirit Jesus had. If they are not bearing the fruit of the Spirit, however, they may be fooling themselves. They may even be wolves in sheep’s clothing.
In the same first chapter of Philippians in which Paul urges the people to walk in a manner worthy of the Gospel, he acknowledges that there are people who claim to be Christians who may not be. At the time, people were evidently proclaiming Jesus, not out of a motive of love and to advance the Gospel, but with a motivation to focus pressure more heavily upon Paul who was imprisoned. Their motives were not pure. Their intentions were to agitate and stir up trouble.
“Some indeed preach Christ from envy and rivalry, but others from good will. The latter do it out of love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel. The former proclaim Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely but thinking to afflict me in my imprisonment.”
Paul turned the table on them by saying, whether Jesus is proclaimed “in pretense or in truth”, he is being proclaimed, “and in that I rejoice”.
I have no doubt that God can work even through people whose motives are impure, but that doesn’t mean we endorse and defend them. We should only endorse and defend God the Father, Jesus Christ and the Gospel. God once used a donkey, but that didn’t mean the donkey deserved allegiance.
I can’t help think of Donald Trump as I read these things Paul wrote. Trump does not exhibit the kind of fruit that we would expect to see in a follower of Christ. He is arrogant, boastful, brash and unsympathetic. He is crude, unmerciful to his opponents and foul-mouthed. He is vindictive, spiteful and unloving in his demeanor and words.
I have no question that God can use a man such as Donald Trump for His own purposes. On the other hand, is Trump walking and living his life in a manner worthy of the Gospel? Do we really want to claim him as one of our own? Surely, the express Christian support of Donald Trump, even in the face of his worst comments and behavior, is problematic if we are going to take the words of Jesus (that they will know them by their fruit) seriously.
We need to be careful of our express support of Donald Trump and defense of him in the face of his crude behavior and unkind remarks. There is no question that God can work through such a man as Donald Trump, but the same can be said of Barack Obama. Though Christians might not like to admit it, God set Barack Obama in place and no doubt worked his purpose through the 8 years of Barack Obama’s presidency just as He set Trump in place.
(We have to be consistent, don’t we? If God removes and establishes kings, and no authority exists that has not been established by God, then both Obama and Trump were established according to the will of God.)
The important thing for us, Paul says, is that we walk in a manner worthy of the Gospel, and we associate with people who live lives worthy of the Gospel. If we are not being consistent in these things, we are bearing false witness and causing harm to the cause of the Gospel.
Though other people may not subscribe to our God and may reject him as Lord of their lives, they can, nevertheless, see when we are deviating from the Gospel, the truth, what is holy and worthy and right. When we deviate from that standard, we become a stumbling block to people who are watching us. By aligning ourselves too closely with someone who does not exhibit the fruit of the Spirit and is not walking in a manner worthy of the Gospel, we do harm to the Gospel.
In Philippians Paul says to live is Christ and to die is gain. Do we believe that? Are we willing to let go of our patriotism to live fully, completely and without reservation for Christ? Are we willing to die to our safe and secure lives we have as Christians in the United States?
There may come a day, and that day may even be upon us, when we will have to choose between comfort, safety and security and Jesus. I am not overly excited about that prospect, but we should at least be aware of the potential.
The one thing to which we must always be true is Jesus and the Holy Spirit. We should not abandon Jesus and the Holy Spirit for anything – not for comfort or safety, not for political expediency, not for anything.
Meanwhile, if Trump is a Christian, and I am not convinced he is, we not only have the right but the admonition from Paul to judge him. In fact, we are ignoring Paul’s admonition if we don’t. We may be doing him a favor to call him on the areas in which he is exhibiting bad fruit. We have no business judging the world, but we must judge those within the church – otherwise, we may be making our beds with wolves in sheep’s closing.
 Aksíōs (an adverb) – worthily (“becoming”); suitable, recognized as fitting (worth “matching” actual value).
 Galatians 5:22-23 (“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.”)
 Matthew 7:15-20 (“Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus you will recognize them by their fruits.”)
 John 13:34-35 (“As I have loved you, so also you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you love one another.”) See also 1 John 3:14 (“We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love our brothers. The one who does not love remains in death.”); and 1 John 4:20 (“If anyone says, ‘I love God,’ but hates his brother, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen.”)
 1 Corinthians 13
 1 Corinthians 1 5:12 (“What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church?”)
 1 Corinthians 1:5-11-13 (“But now I am writing you not to associate with anyone who claims to be a brother but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or a verbal abuser, a drunkard or a swindler. With such a man do not even eat. What business of mine is it to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? God will judge those outside.”)
 Philippians 1:15-17
 Philippians 1:18
 Daniel 2:21
 Romans 13:1-2
 Philippians 1:21