taking the words of Jesus seriously

There are (sadly) so many ways in which the current leadership of our country falls far, far short of exemplifying Christian leadership and Christian character — no matter what some may think about whether President Trump is a divinely appointed protector, or simply a leader with “excellent policies” for evangelicals.

The president of the United states is employed by “we, the people” to lead our government not form our character, yet hero worship and role-modeling happen — and many in the country take their lead from our leader. Thus, while Micah 6:8 calls us to “act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God,” we have a leader who completely forsakes humility in boasting “I alone can fix it.”

Exodus 23:9 reminds us “Do not oppress a foreigner,” yet our president has persisted in distorting the truth about who seeks to enter our country, and in threatening the status of those foreigners brought here as children. The writer of Ecclesiastes reminds us that “patience is better than pride,” yet our president responds to difficulties with all the subtlety of a toddler’s tantrum.

Jesus calls us to love our neighbors as ourselves and from this should flow Christian concern for the poor, the oppressed, the foreigner and the immigrant; both on the personal level and (were we a country seeking to even faintly embody Christian character) on a policy level.

Just as important however, is the more personal character issue of forgiveness. Love for neighbor can encompass care and support, but should also encompass grace and forgiveness. Jesus’ teaching on prayer, “And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors,” clearly presumes that Christian character is founded on forgiveness. Indeed, Micah 6:8 points us here too — through the prophet Micah the Lord calls for justice, but also for “mercy,” which is part and parcel of forgiveness.

So, to be led by a leader who seems to thrive on grudges and revenge is to be reminded yet again of how poor an example of character we have in our leader. Even if there might be legitimate room for disagreements and debate over the morality or rightness of some of the current administration’s policies, there can be no question that a man known as a holder of grudges does not exemplify the Christian call to forgiveness.

Much has been written about the “direction” our country is going. Much has also been said about the rightness or wrongness of policies and attitudes toward the weak or the oppressed or the immigrant. These matters of policy and practice are important, and they are important precisely because outward behavior at the individual and corporate levels is the way our priorities and principles are expressed. If we care for others in the way Jesus calls us to, then it is incumbent on us to look “to the interests of others.” But it is even more important to remember the central tenet of Christian faith — we follow a Savior who shed His own blood to purchase our forgiveness from sin. Jesus did not just do “stuff” for us, he gave himself for us out of God’s forgiving mercy. To ignore the centrality of forgiveness in anything that is to be linked to “Christianity,” is to ignore the heart of what it means to be “Christian.”

The United States clearly is not, and should not be, a theocracy. But those who celebrate a leader who so blatantly behaves contrary to the core Christian principle of forgiveness, miss completely what it means to represent Christianity in public life.

“Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you” – Ephesians 4:32

About The Author

Dr. Bill Cayley teaches at the Prevea Family Medicine Residency Program in Eau Claire, WI. He is also the Books and Media reviews editor for the journal "Family Medicine," and an editor for the Cochrane Heart Group. Bill is an active member of The Bridge Church in Eau Claire, WI. Most of all, he is a husband and a dad.

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