In the April 2018 issue of the Atlantic, is an article by Michael Gerson. After reading “The Last Temptation” I wanted to share it with a pastor friend of mine who is a supporter of President Trump. My friend came to visit and as I finished covering some book covers, I gave him the magazine and asked him to read the article. In a few minutes he closed the magazine and I asked why. “I’ve read enough,” he said. Seeing my surprise, he continued. “I read the first two paragraphs and he [Gerson] knows nothing of grace.” He went on to explain that what Gerson had written about President Trump could be written about anyone because we are all sinners.
Later after our lunch, I returned to the article and re-read the first two paragraphs. Gerson writes: “One of the most extraordinary things about our current politics-really, one of the most extraordinary developments of recent political history-is the loyal adherence of religious conservatives to Donald Trump. The president won four-fifths of the votes of white evangelical Christians.” Gerson continues to write that President Trump’s “background and beliefs do not follow traditional Christian models of life and leadership.” Gerson then goes on to point out some of President Trump’s more well known uses of language, lewd comments about his daughter, and other examples of non-Christian deeds. So, my friend quit reading after about one hundred words because he saw Gerson as being judgmental.
Grace! Such a varied word for Christians and non-Christians which ranges in meaning from personal charm to sanctification by God. That latter definition was how my friend was using grace, as in the “Divine love and protection bestowed freely on human beings.” In his mind, Gerson was not granting President Trump what he is given by God—recognition and forgiveness for his human frailty. Thus, granted grace means we are loved and forgiven our sins by God and should, by His direction, give the same to our fellow humans.
But, I think my friend is mistaken in how he thinks we should grant grace and forgiveness as an extension of grace. We are told repeatedly in the Bible not to judge others. Proverbs 29:26, “Many seek the ruler’s favor; but every man’s judgment cometh from the LORD.” KJV I get that and work at being gracious to other humans. As Pastor Gibson often said, “We know God made him [a prickly/odd person], but we just don’t know why.” I remember that when I encounter a difficult person, and how the Disciple John tells us to love in deed and truth, not by our words. However, does being directed to love, grant grace, and forgive require us to ignore repeated violations of the Ten Commandments?
Some years ago I was involved in an immoral relationship. She was known by my family and friends who knew how unhappy my thirty-year marriage had been, and they were all truly glad for my happiness. During those four years not one person suggested to me that what I was doing was sinful. One long-time friend, a pastor, did comment that he and his wife were surprised by “your youthful friend.” She and I became an accepted couple until we were blown apart by Katrina. However, looking back, I wish that one of the people who loves me had told me in words “with grace, seasoned with salt” that I was deep in sin, “far from the distant shore.” I may not have heard the words, but I would have been told. Also, the reverse is true: I find it so difficult and even awkward to tell a friend or relative that she/he is wrong Biblically. To point out an error in grammar is easy for me, but not one from the Bible. And I think most of us feel this way. But, is this Christian behavior?
Throughout the Gospels, after Jesus heals or forgives someone, He tells she or he to go and sin no more. That lesson seems to be what my friend is forgetting regarding President Trump. Yes, we should forgive. We should love. However, when a man repeatedly violates one or more of the Commandments, am I bound to accept his actions as “no worse than any other politician”?
Paul writes that “evil communications corrupt good manners,” and that if we go to a sinning brother and tell him of his sin; and if he continues in his ways, to return with another brother as a witness. If the sinning brother continues, Paul tells us to stop any relationship with the sinner. Many Christians, such as my friend, seem to me to be overlooking the continuous sins of President Trump to gain some perceived political win or wins. However, they are in danger of allowing great damage to be done, in the words of Beth Moore quoted by Beth Moore, “when we sell our souls to buy our wins.”
President Trump is our elected leader, and that needs to be honored. However, he is also a false prophet who needs to be challenged for his constant, non-Christian words and deeds.