Today is November 9th, one day after an election where Donald Trump was elected president of the United States. It is also a fact that he is president in large measure because he received over 80% of the Evangelical vote. Since I was one of those who went through the agony of eventually voting for our president-elect, I also feel very qualified to offer the following article on the other side of the election.
Voting for Mr. Trump was one of the most difficult and excruciating things I’ve ever done. In the end I did so primarily due to one issue – abortion. After watching former Secretary of State Clinton coolly and confidently support abortion up until the last minute before a child is born, while also stating that an unborn child has no rights whatsoever – that was the turning point for me. There was no sense of anything in her except great pride that we do this in America. Because Mr. Trump had made it clear that he would oppose abortion (albeit with a promise – not exactly the most trustworthy currency in an election) I chose to vote for him. I did so without a sense of great pride in my vote – without any kind of bravado – I simply did it to protect the unborn. Having said this – and having read far too many facebook posts from both sides that broke my heart after the election – I want to offer unsolicited advice to those who are evangelicals who voted for president-elect Trump.
President-elect Trump needs our prayers (as does President Obama) as he faces the presidency. First and foremost, it is my opinion, based upon his actions and words, that we need to pray for this man’s salvation. I was never under any deception that he was or is a Christian – regardless of what the President of Liberty University says. This man needs to repent of sin and receive Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior – period. By the way, if that statement offends you, I believe all men and women need to repent and receive Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior because all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. If you are a “true evangelical” then this is THE issue for us ultimately – is he (or anyone else for that matter) someone who has come to understand that he is a sinner by choice and by nature – has come to understand that Jesus is the God-man who came and paid for sin by His death, burial, and resurrection – and has come to repentance over his sin and now has put his faith in Jesus Christ to pay for his sin and make him acceptable to God.
President-elect Trump also needs our prayers to govern wisely as the chief executive and commander in chief over our armed forces. Ask anyone who has ever held this office, there is tremendous pressure and responsibility associated with it. And take it from someone who is only a father and pastor of a local church – the more authority you have – the greater the damage you can do by making unwise and ungodly decisions. My unwise choices affect the 14 people in my family – and at least 175-200 people who attend the fellowship I am honored to serve. Things like pride, ego, marital infidelity, foul language, caustic comments, and perverse treatment of women, are unwise and ungodly from a biblical perspective. Sorry if this offends you but I am a pastor who is responsible to teach God’s Word – and advance a godly and righteous lifestyle. We can support him in some ways – but we need to be clear that these actions and attitudes are unacceptable. Should we show our president-elect grace and love? Absolutely. But can we afford as evangelicals to just gloss over the clear elephant in the room when it comes to his character and ungodliness? If we do – we will lose the moral authority to speak to our society – especially those who opposed him in the election who need the gospel so badly.
President-elect Trump – and our nation – need our prayers for healing and unity. Only someone who has lived under a rock for the last year and a half is unaware of the incredible rift that there is in our nation. He is not responsible alone for this rift – but this past election cycle only made us aware of how wide it is. I am painfully aware that much of this rift is due to vastly divergent worldviews. Both sides of this divide view the moral stances of the other as moral bankruptcy. He will face deep divides that will require wisdom, patience, and understanding to even begin to address. As an evangelical there are issues within our nation where I have to take a stand that is unpopular – very unpopular with those who oppose it. There are moral issues – issues about sexuality – issues about justice – issues about racism – issues about abortion and crisis pregnancies – issues about how to help those in financial need – so many issues that even trying to list them makes my head swim. What makes it worse is that currently any discourse about them has become so incendiary that basic communication (where we respect one another) seems almost impossible. We so quickly descend into sound bytes and insults at the drop of a hat. Oh how we need to move away from listening to the talking heads and talk radio and actually listen to one another once again. The rhetoric of the election has left us all battered and worn out emotionally. Pray that our President – and our president-elect can begin to heal the fractures – rather than make them worse.
One final word though to those of us who are evangelicals – and it is a word of great warning. If we choose to swagger through the next several months before and after the inauguration we are going to see the gospel itself face a terrible backlash. If we act as if Mr. Trump has great moral authority after what we’ve learned about how he treats women and his own marriage – we will alienate a large group of women who need to hear the gospel. They will see our joy over his election as an endorsement of his immoral actions – and will turn a deaf ear to the message of the gospel. If we act as if it wasn’t a problem that he didn’t distance himself from the KKK and other white supremacist groups with the strongest words possible – we will alienate many in the black community. They will see our joy in his election as an affirmation of what they already see as systemic racism and will turn a deaf ear to the gospel. If we act as if Mr. Trump’s bravado and pride – and the many morally questionable insults toward his opponents – should be seen as just politics as normal – we should not be surprised to see a rejection of our gospel as if it is associated with such insults. If we don’t at least attempt to see the political discourse toned down from its new lows in foul language that should offend people’s sensibilities - too many will deduce that we have come to endorse of this kind of talk. They will mock us when we say that the Bible teaches us to reject “corrupt communication from our mouths.” They will see such statements as just another way we’ve embraced hypocrisy as Christians. This will, in turn, justify in their minds turning a similar deaf ear to whatever else we have to say about salvation and the gospel. I’ve already seen too many posts by those on the other side of the political divide who are saying that if Trump represents evangelicalism – they are done with it.
Be careful precious saints of God – and be wise in the days ahead. Our attitudes and our demeanor can do much to either advance the gospel or turn people off to it. May God give us wisdom, especially in these days to prove ourselves true sons of God – who embrace both truth and our role to be peacemakers. THE most important thing is that we, as evangelicals, see that what our nation needs most is the grace of God in the gospel of Jesus Christ. These are the only things that will bring about the much-needed revival in the church and the even more-needed spiritual awakening among the lost. So that these things may come to our nation may God give us grace to be men and women wise enough to navigate such a time as this.
On Sunday night, July 10th, a protest involving thousands of people from Memphis flooded onto the Hernando Desoto Bridge which spans the Mississippi River. That protest was organized by those who felt something had to be done to address the loss of black lives in confrontations with the police. The group that marched that night was frustrated, angry, and outraged over what they perceived to be the injustice they see and have experienced over the years. It was a situation that could have easily escalated into violence, which most likely would have spread throughout the city of Memphis. But that night we were reminded what true leadership looks like – and how a godly leader can both de-escalate a dangerous situation, offer hope to those who feel so misunderstood, and even lead with strength and restraint when such leadership is needed.
Police Director Mike Rallings showed us, by example, what we needs to be done to step up in the crisis that is growing in regard to racial relations. At great risk to himself he walked out on that bridge and sought to be a “bridge” himself. He chose to have a conversation with the protestors. He chose not to become angry and frustrated when he was disrespected. He chose to speak peace and act peacefully to help diffuse a very difficult situation. But what truly impressed me was that this police Director was involved in looking for answers long before this protest started. In an effort to present something we can DO in this crisis, I would like to write a little about what Police Director Mike Rallings said at a meeting called, “Healing the Broken Village” back at the beginning of 2016. He suggested that if more of the 2,000 churches in Memphis focused on their neighborhoods, it could make a significant dent in the number of arrests in the city. He offered the suggestion that churches help provide ministry that offers alternatives to kids after school hours, which is the time of day when they are the most likely to get into trouble. Another public servant at that conference said this, “Take back that corner. What if every church drew a 1,000 yard radius around itself and took the time to get to know every child in that circle?” What an amazing thing to consider in the midst of this crisis. These men, along with other men and women who were at the conference, reached a consensus and said as a group, “We cannot arrest our way out of this problem.”
They were right - law enforcement alone will not solve these problems. There must be a choice made by the church at this critical juncture to be the light, Instead of raging at the darkness. We are called by our Lord to shine the light of the gospel by our actions and with our words. Like our Lord we must be willing to enter into our world and build sacrificial, loving, gospel-sharing relationships. We have opportunities to step out and get to know our neighbors BEFORE a protest begins. We have the opportunity to build trust with them by caring before a crisis. There are random groups of young men who play basketball on our outdoor court almost every day, with whom we could build relationships. We could foster better understanding with these guys in an effort to genuinely love them – and eventually to share the gospel of Jesus with them. We can be involved in the life of a few young men or women – and seek to see their lives head in a different direction. We can endeavor to make disciples in our surrounding area so that the gospel can turn our community upside down – or maybe better said in our current crisis – right side up.
The fact of the matter is that I do not live in Dallas, Louisiana, or Minneapolis/St. Paul. I live in Jonesboro, Arkansas. Few if any of us will be able to have a direct affect on the areas of our country where tensions are running the highest. But we CAN do something to address the tension in our own community. We can get involved in ministering to those in our neighborhood – in our city who feel disenfranchised, who feel frustrated, who feel angry at what is happening. The way we do this is by building a relationship with one person who is not like us. We can do this by choosing to love and reach out – rather than give in to frustration and anger and put up a wall towards those around us who say that black lives matter. We can SHOW we know that they matter by taking back our own corner through the love of Christ. We can show we know they matter by befriending one person – listening to one person – loving one person. We can show they matter by listening to them – even when they are angry and frustrated.
The Lord Jesus said to us that we are to let our light shine in such a way that those around us may see our good works and glorify our Father Who is in heaven. At the risk of sounding too trite I want to suggest that those of us who love the Lord Jesus Christ – and who know that the ultimate answer is the gospel consider a hash tag of our own. The hash tag I am suggesting is this, #shininglightmatters. Maybe it will remind US what to DO in these difficult days. Maybe it will turn us from being caught up in the midst of the anger, frustration, and growing misunderstanding of one another. Maybe it will help us turn to love in action – to active deeds where we allow our light to shine so that God is glorified. Maybe it will help us to remember that we have hope – and that hope is the gospel of Jesus Christ. Maybe it will remind us that the church needs to rise up and be the source of ultimate hope, healing, and restoration as we seek to touch lives one at a time through the love of God. This is what that brave police director showed us by his actions. This is what our Lord lived as He came and dwelt among us when we were far from God. This is what Jesus modeled as He even loved those who hated Him and died for their sins. This is what we can do. This is who we should be. This is who God, who gave us life through the new birth, made us to be.
Most of these articles are taken from the Calvary Courier, a weekly newsletter that is sent to the folks who attend Calvary Chapel Jonesboro. Due to the response to these articles, we've decided to print some of them which proved to be very helpful to God's people at the fellowship.
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