Congratulations, Mr. President-Elect. The odds have proven to be in your favor after all.
You all know that a few weeks ago I posted about my personal reluctance to vote for Donald Trump. I laid out my convictions as best I could; I made clear that we each had to do what we each thought was right. Well, we did, and here we are. (How I voted will remain private to me.) Yet I think I am still safe in saying that some of us retain concerns over Trump’s character. There remain unanswered questions.
So now our question is how a Christian responds to his election in the midst of this fog.
Well, we show respect befitting the office. Hence the formality to open my post. God told us to honor governments and officials, and if I’m going to talk of character, I have to follow God’s commandments about mine. We also remember that God is the only one who really knows where all this is going; he’s the one holding each man’s destiny. It was that thought that led me to think of the Apostle Paul. It was a reminder of HIS life that broke open my fog and revealed a staggering vista of the ocean of God’s grace, compelling me to break an earlier no-more-Trump-on-this-blog promise and write this post.
If God can change Saul, he can change Donald Trump.
This is serious business, folks.
Think of it: Trump’s detractors see him as, at worst, tangential to and unconcerned with the gospel of Jesus Christ. Saul was directly opposed to it. No pretenses here: Saul was hauling Christians off to jail and approving their deaths (Acts 26:10). It doesn’t get any more anti-Christian than that. Think of North Korea, Iraq, Sudan. Families torn apart, children orphaned, the Way threatened with extinction. It was this blasphemy, not the profile of Donald Trump or any other man since, that Saul himself seems to regard as “the worst a man can get”. God, having included Saul’s opinion in canonical Scripture, seems to agree. This hyper-Pharisee had racked up an enormous debt before an angry God, and he was most certainly going to pay.
You know the story from here: road to Damascus, blinding light, Saul Saul why are you persecuting me, changed life, changed world, most of New Testament written. It was an incredible transformation. You could even say that the distance from Saul to Paul was harder and farther than any man’s journey since, because Saul thought he was acting in the name of God. Horrible things have been done by men throughout history believing they were acting on God’s behalf. That is a powerful motivator, among the most difficult to shake.
Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners – of whom I am the worst. But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his immense patience as an example for those who would believe in him and receive eternal life. (1 Timothy 1:15-16)
Paul was God’s proof that no man is beyond the reach of either his salvation or his transformation.
And so it is that I cannot count out any man’s transformation – for to do so would be to count out God.
You could be cynical here and point out how few stories of presidential conversions we have seen on the road to D.C. But God is the one deciding things here, and he isn’t exactly a God of predictable patterns. He could, at any time, by his mercy and according to his divine election, change Donald Trump’s heart – at any rate of change he wishes.
I will say this: I haven’t seen much yet. Based on some of Trump’s worldviews, his “Saul apology” after the Bush video, and the way he treated campaign opponents who hadn’t lost to him yet, there is not yet much fruit to be picked. Not as much as some have tried to claim. And a changed heart DOES produce visible, unmistakable fruit. Yes, only God knows the heart, but some hearts don’t exactly make themselves hard to guess. A truly changed heart is like finding the right puzzle piece: when it happens, you’ll know it for sure.
But I will not count God out. That isn’t rationalization, and it isn’t faith in a man. I’m simply trying to have faith in who God says he is.
I also need to remember that my own rap sheet of sin was never any “better” than Trump’s in the eyes of God (boy, is THAT a disruptive thought), and that God has very specific warnings for unmerciful servants. I can hold him accountable, as with any public servant, but God is the one running the wrath department. I can trust his hand in this situation, whether he chooses to change our future president or not.
Let us pray for the man. You may be tired of hearing that after eight years of praying for Obama – did you really pray for him? – but don’t give up on the power of prayer. I have a hunch (well, more like a Biblical instruction) that it’s the more powerful option than anger. Do not hope for Trump’s failure in order to validate your anger; do not call names; do not hold his supporters in contempt. I know this is a tall order. But Jesus makes tall orders. He didn’t stutter: Love your enemies, and pray for those in power.
Don’t worry – he himself will graciously give you the power to do all this. He really will. You just need to accept that power.
Your soul is sealed, believer; your true Game 7 is coming, when all these earthly matters will be washed away. Hold fast and trust God. Your soul is sealed.