Eternal security. Predestination. Speaking in tongues. Donald Trump.
So goes the list of things that cut a hostile, fiery divide between Christians. With the 2016 Presidential Election fast approaching, American evangelicals are facing a moral dilemma unlike anything we’ve seen in a long time: what on earth do we do with Donald Trump?
This is a man whose reputation more than precedes him, from his Olympian ego to his claim that he could get away with murder. Some might dismiss such examples as nothing more than a big personality, while others could call it troubling arrogance. What’s even more concerning is his derogatory sexism and his objectification of women. But what’s truly alarming is the fact that he’s bragged about bedding married women; that over the course of three marriages he’s cheated and enjoyed it; and of course the hot topic this week is the leaked video of his lewd and crude comments about trying to seduce (or perhaps “assault” is a better word) multiple women, including grabbing their genitalia.
Here is a man who functions according to one overarching principle, and that principle is himself. He is vulgar, insensitive, and claims he doesn’t need God’s forgiveness for any of it. Yet here he is, the Republican nominee for President of the United States of America.
Some Christians have taken up arms with the #NeverTrump movement and either refuse to vote or will write in a third-party. Some will vote for him, but begrudgingly, and only to keep Hillary Clinton out of office. Others parade him as the savior of the Republican Party and shamelessly excuse his every move. Still others who previously endorsed him have since recanted.
Now, of course I would never vote for Hillary Clinton, but as it stands right now I have no intention of voting for Donald Trump, either. Yet I have many, many Christian friends who not only say they’re voting for him, but become confused or angry when they hear that I am not.
Some of their concerns are legitimate. The Supreme Court has a large, empty seat that needs filling, religious liberty has never been more endangered, and the abortion issue still casts a dark, bloody shadow over the land. For many Christians, a failure to vote for Trump means conceding these issues to the liberals. It means giving Hillary Clinton the keys to the country.
I get that, I really do. It’s a tough call to make. And I hope as much as anyone to see our land return to conservative principles and practices. But it’s precisely my belief in principles that keeps me from supporting Trump, and I hope to encourage my brothers and sisters in Christ to consider the same.
It seems to me that many Christians are supporting Trump out of fear. Fear of ISIS. Fear of illegal immigration. Fear of losing party unity. Fear of losing seats in the Supreme Court. Fear of losing cultural influence. Fear of losing religious freedom. With so much on the line, it’s no wonder that conservatives are standing by the Donald regardless of whatever comes out of his mouth. They’re terrified to do otherwise. He represents their only bastion of survival.
So the stakes are simple: get on board with a man who boastfully defies all standards of Christian character and conduct, or risk a dark future of liberals, socialism and terrorists. Never mind that Donald Trump is the poster boy for all the sexual perversion Christians have long stood against. Never mind that Donald Trump is the poster boy for crudity, egotism, and dishonesty. So long as he promises to protect us we’ll let him be our poster boy, too.
Yet as I consider these issues, a passage of Scripture keeps popping into my head that I think we would do well to remember in times such as these, from the very mouth of our incarnate Lord:
“Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” (Matt. 6:31-33)
Jesus is addressing fear. He’s addressing how easy it is for us to slip into anxiety over the many troubles of this world, and how easy it is for our actions to be dominated by the constant need for security. But that sort of fear, He says, is for the godless. The heathen feels the need to secure his own provision and protection because he has no other source of hope. Since he paves his own destiny, he alone is responsible for ensuring its safety.
But the believer, according to Jesus, has a very different mindset. We “seek first”, before anything else in this world including political platforms, to be faithful to Christ’s kingdom and the pure “righteousness” of God. Our top priority must be to walk in integrity before Him. We must applaud that which is good and denounce that which is evil (Rom. 12:9, 21) We must call sin for what it is, we must never excuse or endorse it, and we must never go along with men who glory in such things (Ps. 1:1; Prov. 1:10).
We must not let fear distract us from faithfulness to God’s kingdom and God’s righteous ways. The kingdom of God is not just a distant, eschatological hope, but a current reality. We participate in and advance that kingdom every day. Our churches, families, neighborhoods, books, movies, and yes, even our politics, must all be built on the foundation of the fact that Jesus reigns. His kingdom is advanced not by who’s in the White House or who’s on the Supreme Court, but by His people faithfully obeying Him without compromise: “For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit” (Rom. 14:17).
Believe it or not, our top goal as American evangelicals should not simply be to stop the Democrats at all costs. Gun rights, strong borders, and personal freedom are all good things to pursue. But since they have become what we “seek first” we now find ourselves ready to follow a shamelessly immoral man who promises them to us if only we’ll give him our loyalty in return. That’s not faithfulness to the kingdom of God. When millions of Christians are giving their pledge to a lying, hot-headed, name-calling, womanizing bully, that’s not faithfulness to the righteousness of God.
Our goal must be Christ’s glory in our every choice and association. And if “all these things”—like safety and liberty—end up being added to us later, then great. But that part is not ours to worry about.
That’s why Jesus told us to not be anxious. He was not saying that material things—food, clothing, housing, or even politics and laws of the land—don’t matter. Christ’s primary concern in this passage is what we make our primary concern in this life. Instead of operating out of constant worry for the unknown, our business must be to honor God with the choices we make right here and right now and trust the outcome to His sovereignty. We don’t compromise the means to achieve the ends; we’re faithful with the means, and leave the ends to God. As my old youth pastor used to say, “You worry about God’s kingdom and let Him worry about yours.”
You might think that sounds like a cop-out. I hope not. I’m not saying Christians should sit on their hands and then blame their laziness on God’s will. That’s not what I’m talking about at all. I’m talking about actively doing the morally right thing—seeking God’s righteousness—in every situation, even when it seems futile, and trusting Him to take care of the rest.
We should care about politics. We should vote. We should be involved in the issues of the day. But that cannot be done at the expense of forgetting which kingdom we’re truly fighting for. We must not abandon the principles of God’s kingdom in order to secure the political platforms of our own. 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 warns that those who are “sexually immoral”, “adulterers,” “greedy,” “revilers,” and “swindlers…will not inherit the kingdom of God.” It’s hard to claim that we’re putting God’s kingdom first when we’re so blatantly supporting a man who exhibits these exact traits.
I am shocked and saddened at how many times I’ve heard Christians telling other Christians to “get off their moral high horse” and vote for Trump. Get off our moral high horse? Do we hear ourselves? Isn’t that what liberals have been telling us for years? Must we identify ourselves with a man who has built his empire on the very things we’re told to flee? Isn’t our commitment to holiness supposed to be the very thing that sets us apart? Are we really supposed to shove our identity in Christ to the back burner for the greater good of winning an election? I’m sorry, but no.
Many have also claimed that by not voting for Trump we’re “throwing away” our vote. But that depends on our goal. If our goal is simply to stop Hillary Clinton, then yes, I suppose that might be considered a throw away. But if our goal is greater than that—if our goal is the holy integrity of Christ’s kingdom, and if we remember than we will be held accountable for our endorsements long after America is dust—then we will not be throwing anything away. In that case, throwing away our vote would be to compromise morals for worldly security. Doing the right thing before our Lord is never a waste. Even when the alternative seems scary.
So before you gaggle over Donald Trump, make excuses for him, or before you cast a vote for him in November, I beg you to consider: Is your decision motivated by fear? Does anxiety for the future have you throwing in your lot with a man who defies all standards of God and His righteousness?
Get involved, Christian. But when you do, consider which kingdom you’re seeking first.