Commentary by Bob Vander Plaats
In a Washington Post piece this week, columnist Michael Gerson criticizes evangelical Trump supporters for excusing the president’s moral failures in exchange for “political benefits.”
Gerson’s piece is needlessly condescending, yet it illustrates why Christians need a higher standard for engaging government. Why as believers in the King of Kings, we must think bigger and look higher than our earthly leaders.
“When presented with the binary choice of Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump, I can understand a certain amount of anguish,” Gerson writes of evangelicals who voted Trump. “But that is not a reason to become sycophants, cheerleaders and enablers.”
And on that point, he’s right.
As Christians, we have no business excusing the Billy Bush tapes, apologizing for crude language, trying to justify Trump’s moral failures under a suspect banner of “forgiveness,” or blindly decrying every accusation leveled against him as false.
Yet neither need do we need to “prove” our moral integrity by joining the chorus of those who mock and sneer and condemn the president’s every move.
In fact, our Christian ethic loses its authenticity when it offers allegiance to the either side of the either-or, Republican-Democrat dichotomy. Our faith should be bigger than that. You don’t have to wear the banner of “Trump hater” or “Trump supporter.” You can wave the banner of Christ instead.
“You don’t have to wear the banner of ‘Trump hater’ or ‘Trump supporter.’
You can wave the banner of Christ instead.”
It’s a difficult and narrow road to walk in a cultural firestorm that judges every word as pro-Trump or anti-Trump, but our testimony must be measured instead by a higher standard, regardless of where Trump falls in respect to that standard.
So when President Trump takes a righteous stand at the March for Life … celebrate it! Thank him for defending religious liberty, for standing as an ally to Israel, for infusing optimism into the American economy, and more.
But when Trump’s speech is false or crude, when his sin is exposed, or when his policy is contrary to biblical values, then we have a higher obligation: to honor God’s Word and to speak the truth in love, preserving the integrity of our testimony.
Remember that King David was called “a man after God’s own heart,” a celebrated and good king; but when he fell into adultery, there was a prophet of God, Nathan, who stood in David’s face and called the king to account. As Christians proclaiming the Word of God today, our job is the same: To encourage the president when he does right and to hold him accountable when he does wrong.
In his column, Gerson points out that Billy Graham warned an evangelist should be careful not “to identify the Gospel with any one particular political program or culture.” Nor should it ever be identified with a president or king. The Gospel belongs to Christ, and as Christians engaged in government, so should we.
“Blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked … or sit in the company of mockers, but whose delight is in the law of the LORD” – Psalms 1:1-2.
Bob Vander Plaats is president and CEO of The FAMiLY LEADER