Of Kings, the Gospel and Political Expediency

What is the fruit of the Holy Spirit? What does loving your neighbor look like? These are not idle questions. These are questions that will separate sheep from goats.

Depositphotos Image ID: 55708003 Copyright: prometeus

Over the weekend, I posted a simple message on Facebook: presidents don’t say things like that. I am referring to the “sh*thole nations” statement of course. That simple post spawned hundreds of comments, and many of the comments were from Christians defending Trump, or at least not denouncing what Trump might have said.

Durbin might have mistaken what Trump actually said. It’s possible. It’s highly likely that Durbin was motivated by his dislike of Trump and by political objectives when he reported what he claimed Trump said. While it’s possible that Trump didn’t say those words, at least not exactly as they were reported, it also doesn’t really matter.

It’s one thing to question the veracity of Durbin’s report, but it’s another thing to defend or overlook what was claimed to have been said. If he said what he is accused of saying, we shouldn’t be defending it.

I find the continued, unquestioned support for the president, no matter what he says or does, by the Christian community to be disturbing. Are we following Christ? Or are we following a political party? I can’t tell.

Some of the things that have been said include the following: 1) yeah but look at the good that he is doing; or 2) he’s not perfect, he’s a flawed human being;  or 3) other presidents have said much worse, and 4) all presidents have said things in private meetings that they would not say in public (to repeat some of statements I have seen).

Those statements may be accurate (or not), but regardless of that, let’s look at these things from a Gospel perspective.

The good that Trump has done is almost purely a matter of political perspective. People of different political persuasions come out on extreme ends of that proposition. The better analysis from a gospel point of view is how does what Trump has done lineup with the Sermon on the Mount? I’m not going to go into that here, but shouldn’t that be the focus of our assessment of what Trump has done as Christians?

Jesus didn’t teach us to “protect our own”. He taught us to “love your neighbor”.

It’s undoubtedly true that Trump is a flawed human being, as am I and the rest of us. Is that a good defense from a Gospel point of view though?

Jesus said that the world would know us by our fruit and by our love. When Jesus talked about knowing “them by their fruit” He was actually talking about false prophets and sheep in wolves clothing. He was telling us to beware of people creeping into our midst who are not sheep – you will know them by their fruit.

What is the fruit of the Holy Spirit? What does loving your neighbor look like?

These are not idle, philosophical questions. These are at the very heart and root of the Gospel. These are the questions that will separate the sheep from the goats. These are the characteristics that will separate the wheat and the tares.

There were reports during the presidential campaign that Trump had become a Christian, and he was, therefore, a new Christian. Certainly, Christians are flawed, and new Christians bring a flawed character into and through the born-again experience. If anyone is truly be born again,though, the Spirit begins to work within to begin to will and to act according to the purpose of God. The Spirit begins to bear fruit, and that fruit is what other people can see.

I am not about to question whether Donald Trump is a true believer or a false prophet. I’m not in a position to do that. I can not and will not try to judge his heart, but we can not overlook the fact that we are told to distinguish false prophets from true believers by their fruit. We should be rejecting the bad and embracing the good.

We shouldn’t be making excuses, covering up and overlooking the bad fruit!

Paul tells us that we should not judge the world. Paul says the world has a judge, and that judge is God. In the same breath, Paul says that we must judge each other, but we often get that exactly backward. We direct our judgment at the world and not ourselves.

“What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside?  God will judge those outside. ” (1 Corinthians 5:12-13)

The integrity of the body of Christ is at issue here.

Jesus said there would be tares among the wheat, there would be wolves who try to come in among the sheep, but we should be discerning. Jesus told us to be on guard. That means that we must judge those who claim to be with the church.

When a Christian speaks out about the crude or ungodly things that Donald Trump says or does, the Christian is being true to the Gospel. It may be that Donald Trump is a true believer who is deeply flawed and in whom the Spirit is working, but that does not mean that we should blindly defend everything that Donald Trump says and does. It damages the integrity of the Gospel.

Paul says, “a little yeast leavens the whole batch of dough”; “get rid of the old yeast”; don’t associate with people who bear bad fruit and claim to be a brother or a sister. (1 Corinthians 5:6-11) If a person really is a brother or a sister, and he is not bearing the right kind of fruit, he needs us to be blunt with him.

A new Christian who is allowing his old man control over the Spirit within him may be heading down a path of destruction if he doesn’t turn around. Paul follows up the first letter to the Corinthians with an admonition to forgive, comfort and restore people who turn from those ways that produce the bad fruit. That is the goal.

Many people claim that the election of Donald Trump is evidence of God siding and working with the Christians in the United States. Maybe that’s true, and maybe it isn’t. A friend recently cited King Saul as an example of God putting a flawed human being into the role of king of Israel, but that really isn’t a good example

If you read the story of King Saul carefully, you will see that the people were crying out to God for a king so that they could be like the neighboring nations around them. God wanted to be their King, the King of Kings, but the people wanted a human King. They wanted to be just like the nations around them. (The nations around them were the same people God wanted driven out of the land so they wouldn’t be a corrupting influence.)

Yes, God gave them a king, but that isn’t what God wanted for them. God gave them the king that they wanted, but that wasn’t what God wanted. In Romans 1, we read that God gives people over to the lust of their flesh and to depraved minds who are hell-bent on following their own paths instead of God’s. When God does that, it isn’t what God wants to do; it’s what we insist on doing, and He finally gives us over to it.

This is not a blessing, but a judgment. If we insist on going against God, He lets us go our own ways to our own destruction. This is because God gives us free will. He wants us to love Him freely; and if we won’t love Him freely, he gives us over to what we want – even to our own destruction.

Some people remind us that King David was no angel either. Granted, that’s true, but David paid for his indiscretions. He was driven out of the kingdom by his own son who sought to kill him. When David employed a census to count the men under his dominion (presumably to tax them) in violation of God’s desire and purpose (because the nation was God’s, not David’s), 70,000 men died as a result of David’s indiscretion. (2 Samuel 24)

Even David, who had a heart after God’s own heart, failed to do what was right at all times, and he was called to account for it. We should not hesitate to call Donald Trump out for what he says or does that is contrary to the Gospel, contrary to the command to love others as ourselves.

I don’t know if Trump is a judgment or a blessing. Only time will tell. Maybe we will only know when we are face to face with Jesus. In the meantime, we have to remain true to the Gospel. We have to walk in a manner worthy of the gospel. We need to be discerning and honest and not give up the integrity of the Gospel for any political expediency.

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