What’s a Biblical Disciple to Do with Trump?
On Wednesday, December 18, President Trump was impeached by the House of Representatives, and now he is slated for a trial in the Senate. How should a Biblical disciple respond to Trump?
Let’s start with an analogy: No one that day expected a blazing meteor the size of a 6-story building to break up over their city and rain down with more force than a nuclear blast. That’s what happened in 2013 overhead Chelyabinsk, a Russian city east of the Ural Mountains. When a 10,000-ton meteor picks your town to visit, there is no ignoring it. An event like that changes what everybody talks about. It changes the region’s identity and increases tourism. Now, when people hear the city’s name, they think of the “Chelyabinsk Meteor.”
In 2016, it was as though a meteor hit Washington, D.C.
The “meteor’s” name is Donald Trump, and there is every indicator that President Trump enjoys his meteoric reputation. Since then, Left and Right cannot stop fixating on Trump. The one side scurries to remove Trump as quickly as possible (Exhibit A: the impeachment vote), while the other side scurries to accommodate Trump as prudently as possible.
What’s a Biblical disciple to do with a President who polarizes everybody, promises everything, and does it all while posturing himself as a Christian? Like it or not, Trump is a meteor that has landed in our church’s front lawn. How do we respond?
Whether you are a Democrat, a Republican, an Independent, or among the politically homeless, there is a far more important prior question to answer: Are you seeking to uphold the teachings of Jesus and to let them inform how you look at everything, including Trump? If so, then whichever way you respond to Trump, there are two responses that are simply not open to you.
Unfortunately, these are the two responses we are most likely to drift into, if we allow FOX (on the one hand) or CNN (on the other hand) to shape our worldviews more than the Bible.
It’s simply dishonest to say that there is a single, “Christian” way to respond to Trump. You may be cheering on the impeachment as the onward roll of justice; you may see the impeachment as a ridiculous, partisan waste of time and resources. Whatever your leanings, here are two responses which are not left open to disciples of Jesus.
#1 – Adore him as America’s savior.
One U.S. Representative compared Trump’s impeachment to Jesus’ trial before Pilate: “When Jesus was falsely accused of treason, Pontius Pilate gave Jesus the opportunity to face his accusers. During that sham trial, Pontius Pilate afforded more rights to Jesus than Democrats have afforded this president in this process.”
Sermonizing on the similarities between Trump and Jesus should go down for Biblical disciples as easily as a glass of months-old milk left out of the fridge.
As a disciple of Jesus, it is possible that you will use Trump and Jesus in the same sentence. You might pray for Trump in Jesus’ name. You might say something like, “Trump needs Jesus.” But when you use the two names in one sentence, please don’t confuse one with the other.
It’s astonishing how people who claim to be small-government conservatives can bloat their political leaders into god-sized proportions, by pumping excessive amounts of faith into them.
As disciples of Jesus, we do well to remember some of the basics of our faith: There is one God. All humans are deeply sinful. Jesus is our Savior. We bow to King Jesus, not to Caesar.
It is good to vote with conviction, and that typically means finding yourself aligning with one particular political party more than another. But when we as a church tie our identity to a particular political party—whether Right or Left—then we’re tying ourselves to a human approach to the world and a potential future avalanche.
The only entity that even attempts to represent the kingdom of Jesus is the Church. The Church is God’s plan “A” and her job is to disciple people so that they represent Jesus and his ways in the world. The best way to change the world is through lots and lots of transformational churches. Everybody needs a Bible-based church to see help him or her see the world through God’s eyes. We can then support politicians and policies that best reflect God’s view. But too often we seek to remake the world through politics.
No worldly political philosophy can capture Jesus.
There are postures of political parties that support some of the ways of Jesus (reduce abortion, care for the poor, etc.), but we cannot equate the ways of Jesus with one party. It is an approach that is destined to fail.
And why in the world would we hitch our prospects to the wild and wily world of partisan politics when we are already part of “a kingdom that cannot be shaken” (Hebrews 12:28)?
#2 – Hate him and hope the worst for him.
Some people love Trump’s brashness. They contrast him with smooth-talking Washington insiders and find in him a refreshing, if abrasive, authenticity.
Many can’t stand the guy. We’re talking more than a moderate annoyance such as they might feel toward a politician with a squeaky voice or a receding hairline. They see Trump and literally hate what they see. His personality, his hair, his glow, his mannerisms, his voice—they find him loathsome. Feeling justified by his moral failings, many people see Trump as a human piece of trash.
Having a measured assessment of Trump based on the facts is one thing. But is it possible for a visceral hatred to distort the facts?
Many have an inordinate disdain for Trump. Winston Churchill was a man with many similar traits to Trump. He was abrasive and frank to a fault. For example, the story is told of a woman who saw Churchill drunk and exclaimed, “Sir Winston, you are drunk!”
“Yes,” he replied to the woman. “And you are ugly. In the morning, I shall be sober.”
There were people who hated Churchill’s personality and his policies. Yet the often-unhinged Churchill was instrumental in halting and defeating Germany’s Nazi Third Reich. Visceral reactions can be deceiving.
If you find yourself hating Trump, then recommit to pursuing a Biblical perspective on people, including how God can use unlikely people. Every person has strengths and weaknesses; blanket condemnations of people are not right.
Even when somebody does what is hateful, that does not give disciples of Jesus the green light to hate the person.
The kings of the first century did much that is hateful; consider the promiscuous, incestuous, and murderous Roman emperors.
Yet disciples were never told to hate them, but to pray for them:
“I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people—for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness” (1 Timothy 2:1-2).
For those who enjoy watching political fights and nursing political hatreds, you will do well to pray. As 1 Timothy 2 instructs us, pray for your leaders and desire peace.
Gauge people on where are in their faith not by where they stand on Trump, but by whether they bow the knee to King Jesus.
I (Daniel) once taught Bible at a Christian school in a decidedly red state. I remember teaching the students that, as Christians, one of our main obligations to the government is to pray for our leaders. President Obama was President at the time. Most of my students leaned Republican, but one in particular. He was a bright student who was into studying politics. So not only did he know how he would vote when he turned 18, but he was studied up on the issues, and he knew why he would vote that way. At that school, we had a rotation of students pray to start out each school day. The day after my Bible lesson, it was this particular student’s day to open class with prayer. And to my joy, this dyed-in-the-wool conservative student prayed for President Obama to have a good day and to govern with wisdom.
That’s someone who gets how Christians do politics. He was well-informed and convictional, but—above all—he loves people and prays for them, even if he disagrees with them.
Trump may be a meteor who blazes for a time, but there is only one “chief cornerstone” of our faith. People’s verdict on Trump is immaterial in light of eternity, but our response to Jesus determines our eternity.
So please don’t allow other people’s views on Trump to determine how well you treat them. And gauge people on where they are in their faith not by where they stand on Trump, but by whether they bow the knee to King Jesus.