How Christians are to relate to their Government
By Erin Baumgaertel
In response to two articles about Christians and President Trump, I want to examine the church’s purpose and how that purpose informs the way Christians ought to act toward their Government.
First, we must read the Bible for ourselves and pray for wisdom for how to think and act on the subject. If we have formed our opinions solely on articles and insights from others, we very well could be left confused and polarized. Believers are to “test everything” (1 Thess. 5:21), and we need God’s truth to do so.
The Bible makes clear that the chief aim of the church (the body of believers) is to bring glory to God (1 Corinthians 10:31; Ephesians 1:3-14). Individually, we do this by knowing God through His Word and prayer. With other believers, we glorify God by building one another up in sound Biblical teaching and in fellowship. Toward the outside world, we proclaim the gospel to all, by our words and deeds (Col. 3:17).
Christians’ opinions of President Trump are just as polarized as everyone else’s. But if we surrendered to God’s priorities for us as He has plainly laid them out in Scripture, our opinions on lesser matters (like politics!) may still differ, but they won’t become big divisive issues. Scripture gives us the freedom to decide how to vote or whether to vote at all, but tells us to use our freedom as servants of God (1 Pet. 2:16). As Americans, in our form of democracy, we are blessed to have the opportunities we do. Many of our brothers and sisters throughout the world are under different types of governments and at times are drastically more oppressed, to say the least. That should remind us that our citizenship is in heaven (Phil 3:20) and we are to live accordingly.
The gospel is our purpose and motivation for everything. Our hearts are to be humble, aligned with God’s word and surrendered to God’s will. Then we can experience true freedom in matters of earthly citizenship and exercise that freedom in love for one another.
Let’s examine the article that supports Trumps impeachment, then an article in response to it, which defends Christians who support Trump and discuss why neither position is Biblical.
Response to “Trump Should Be Removed from Office” by Mark Gallo of Christianity Today
According to Gallo, Christianity Today’s typical approach is “stay above the fray” of political matters, but says “The impeachment of Donald Trump…requires comment”. The article goes on to condemn Trump’s immorality and focuses on the reputation of our country. The “future of our people” is a major theme. But upholding the reputation of our earthly nation is not a Biblical priority for the church. We are not to judge those outside the church, rather, we are only to judge those in the church (1 Corinthians 5:12-13). Our priority for those outside the church is to save lost souls.
Gallo is right to say that the actions of American Christians will influence their witness, but will we do so in a manner worthy of the gospel? Or will we allow issues the church has no authority over to detract from our purpose and alienate those who disagree with us on politics? John 13:35 says the world will know us by our love for one another and the Apostle Paul said “I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some” (1 Cor. 9:22b NIV).
Christianity Today and Mark Gallo, I remind you of what you spoke to believers who support Trump: “remember who you are, and whom you serve.” Do not be distracted by quarreling over disputable matters (Romans 14:1).
Response to “The Christian Case for Trump” by Eric Metaxas
Metaxes begins by addressing Christianity Today’s stance of Trumps profound immorality. He directs back to the Gospel and rightly calls it a perversion of Christian doctrine, reminding us that “all are depraved, and equally in need of God’s grace” and that “one becomes a Christian not by what they do “but by faith in what Jesus has done.” But then he swings to the opposite side of the pendulum.
He says we should support the President, despite his immorality, because of the wickedness of abortion. This argument pits one type of sin against another and in doing so commits the same error of morality that Gallo does. Since all of mankind are immoral (Romans 3:23), our only hope is the gospel. The atrocity of any sin, no matter how great or small, will lead to death. Let us take seriously all sin committed against a perfect, holy, righteous God.
Metaxas says some Christians may believe Trump to be the best candidate. I’ve already discussed that believers are free to choose if and how to vote and that we can be grateful for such rights. But we need to remember that the American governmental system is not our hope, not our purpose, and not our calling.
Metaxes then refers to Jesus turning over table of the money changers in the temple and makes an inappropriate comparison of the (human) President of the United States to the sinless, righteous, God incarnate, Savior of the world, Jesus Christ. Jesus was righteously condemning the religious Jews who were desecrating God’s holy temple for their own gain (John 2:13-17). This in no way is relevant to the immoral failings of the President and is taking the passage completely out of context.
Next Metaxas states, “since most Evangelicals concur with Abraham Lincoln in seeing America as ‘the last best hope of earth.’” This is the main problem. Many are placing their hope in human institutions instead of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. The New Testament Epistles, which lay out regulations for church doctrine, completely contradict this attitude. We cannot save the earth, but by God’s grace we can be a part of the work of God who is saving people out of a dying world.
How the Bible helps us understand this political discussion among believers
Both the Christians who are avidly for Trump because of social issues, and those passionately opposed to him because of moral issues, are missing their purpose as believers by getting caught up in political hubbub which is divisive and distracting from the Gospel (Titus 3:9-11, 2 Tim. 2:23). The role of the church is not to reign in a government that will bring peace on earth. That’s Jesus job, He will come and make all things right. (Rev. 19:11-16). Instead, while living in this fallen world, we are to eagerly await a savior (Phil 3:20) and spread the hope of what is to come. This temporal world is not our home. Therefore, we are to live as aliens and strangers so when people see our good deeds, they will glorify God (1 Peter 2:11-12). The church is to live as peaceably as is possible, to obey governing authorities—acknowledging that God sovereignly placed them there for our good—and to share the gospel in word and deed (Rom. 13:1-7; Col. 3:17). Our war is not against those making immoral choices, or legislation, since our battle is not against flesh and blood. Instead, our war is against the spiritual forces of darkness in this present age, (Eph 6:12; 2 Cor. 10:3-5). God tells us to love, honor, and pray for all who are in authority, including presidents and politicians, and to obey the governing laws of our time (unless it demands us to sin, Dan. 3:12;6:10). We need to recognize that we are all sinners. We need to separate the love for the sinner from the hate of the sin whether they are liberal, republican, socialist, conservative, undecided, pro-life, pro-choice, straight, LGBTQ, etc.
Therefore, the political agendas of the world should not draw disciples of Jesus away from the clear New Testament priorities for the church. Our time in this life is limited; therefore, our loyalties should not be divided between earthly and heavenly citizenship when using our freedom for how to vote or be involvement in government. Let’s follow Paul’s example in doing “one thing” (Phil. 3:13;20) by living fully as servants of God. When relating to outsiders, our role is to share our hope, the gospel, with those who have yet to receive God’s forgiveness and to spur on believers to continue to love God with all their hearts, minds and souls (Matt. 22:37).
May we glorify God, share the gospel, live in a manner worthy of the Gospel, and honor all governing authorities.
God is neither for nor against our President. I leave you with this encounter that Joshua had with the commander of the army of the Lord just before he defeated Jericho by the power of God, from Joshua 5:13-15:
13 When Joshua was by Jericho, he lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, a man was standing before him with his drawn sword in his hand. And Joshua went to him and said to him, “Are you for us, or for our adversaries?” 14 And he said, “No; but I am the commander of the army of the Lord. Now I have come.” And Joshua fell on his face to the earth and worshiped and said to him, “What does my lord say to his servant?” 15 And the commander of the Lord’s army said to Joshua, “Take off your sandals from your feet, for the place where you are standing is holy.”
Editor’s note: this article was written by my wife in response to recent articles on what evangelicals’ attitudes should be toward the current president of the U.S.