Monday, May 8, 2017

President Trump Delivers! Or Does He?

Therefore when the people saw the sign which He had performed, they said, "This is truly the Prophet who is to come into the world.’  So Jesus, perceiving that they were intending to come and take Him by force to make Him king, withdrew again to the mountain by Himself alone.

Jesus did not come into the world to be another prophet; nor an earthly, political king; nor a faith healer; nor a champion of “social justice;” nor a celebrity.  In answer to the false charge before the Roman governor, Pilate, that Jesus had intended to oppose Caesar, He answered, My kingdom is not of this world (John 18: 36a).  Instead, Jesus had openly taught that even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many (Mark 10: 45).  Yet, the masses greeted Jesus, riding on a  young colt of a donkey on that first “Palm Sunday” crying out for a political leader who would deliver the nation Israel from the tyranny of the Romans (See “Palm Sunday:  Don’t Miss Jesus Today”).

Like those in the first century who saw Jesus as just another popular figure who might have the power to lead them to a better life, so today we are quick to follow the person who is powerful, or popular, and promises deliverance.  Election 2016 has given America a new president.  Like him or not, Donald J. Trump is the victor and he has quickly set about fulfilling his campaign promise to “Make America Great Again.”  Trump’s promise to appoint a conservative justice to the U.S. Supreme Court has been accomplished, his promise to get the economy going is being met with favorable jobs reports, and American standing in the world seems to be strengthening by a show of force and resolve against those who disrespect human life and liberty. 
President Trump signs EO protecting religious freedom.

Related to his efforts to protect human life and religious freedom, on May 4, the National Day of Prayer, President Trump, in a Rose Garden ceremony, signed an executive order “Promoting Free Speech and Religious Liberty.” Thus, in keeping his promise to bring to an end the persecution of Christians, Jews, and other well meaning faith-based groups, Trump told those in attendance,

We're a nation of believers.  Faith is deeply embedded into the history of our country... No American should be forced to choose between the dictates of the federal government and the tenets of their faith.

Some like Liberty University President, Jerry Falwell Jr., praised President Trump for his wisdom in crafting the executive order so as to roll back the Johnson Amendment which had been used to threaten religious leaders from speaking out on issues of politics and morality in houses of worship for fear of losing tax-exempt status.  Dr. Falwell supports Trump’s balanced approach of protecting free religious expression while not allowing religious groups to become political action groups that collect donations to support favored candidates. 

Other religious conservatives fear the executive order doesn’t go far enough.  Gregory S. Baylor of the Alliance Defending Freedom sees little protection for people "threatened with the effective closure of their family-run business for simply expressing a religious point of view on marriage that differed from that of the federal government."  Furthermore, regarding bullying of conservative and religious groups by the IRS during the Obama Administration, Baylor is concerned that "Americans cannot rely on the discretion of IRS agents, some of whom have abused that discretion for years to silence pastors and intrude into America’s pulpits."

Meanwhile, civil rights groups are threatening legal challenge against any action that would deny benefits or services to those they oppose on moral grounds, such as same-sex spouses.  Sarah Warbelow, legal director for the Human Rights Campaign stated, “We are watching and we will challenge any effort by [Attorney General] Jeff Sessions or other agencies of Trump’s administration to license discrimination.”

Like many “religious conservatives,” I am thankful that Donald Trump is our president.  I am very encouraged by his efforts to strengthen American institutions that defend moral and religious beliefs and practices.  Trump’s Rose Garden speech on May 4 before and during his signing of the executive order portrays what seems to be his heart-felt support and valuing of religious freedom and commitment to people of faith.  I urge readers to listen and observe the president’s carefully planned presentation to religious leaders of many faiths.  You should also examine the wording of Trump’s executive order Promoting Free Speech and Religious Liberty.  It is our responsibility to be informed of the momentous decisions and actions being taken by our leaders by following reliable sources of news that broadcast what our leaders say and write, and not simply political commentary.

As blessed and  thankful as I was to observe President Trump’s smiling face and words of conviction about religious freedom, I realize that this executive order will not bring healing to America’s deep moral and political divide.  Healing of that divide must begin in human hearts like mine.  If Donald Trump has given us as people of faith anything of value it is an invitation to rededicate ourselves to a lifestyle of repentance and revival of the spirit of holy living that Jesus died and rose again to provide.  President Trump has the power, politics, and celebrity that gives many of us hope that he might deliver America from its divisions, but only Jesus Christ can truly deliver us.  Jesus calls us to repentance and faith so that He through His Spirit can empower us to live by what He called “A New Commandment:” He said to his disciples (John 13: 34-35),

A new commandment I give to you,
that you love one another,
even as I have loved you,
that you also love one another.
By this all men will know that you are My disciples,
if you have love for one another.

President Trump has responded to requests from the faith community by signing an executive order which he believes will be a step toward defending religious expression.  Now it is the responsibility of all of us who value the Christian faith to live by the Great Commandments to love God above all other things and to love our neighbor as ourselves. This means being sure God is preeminent in our priorities and that we respect the opinions, possessions, and priorities of our neighbor regardless of his or her political stance, ethnic group, wealth, or gender.  It is ultimately God's everlasting love for us, in us, and flowing from us to others that will heal broken lives and heal our land.  A.W. Tozer, in The Knowledge of the Holy (Harper), wrote,

The love of God is one of the great realities of the universe, a pillar upon which the hope of the world rests. But it is a personal, intimate thing, too. God does not love populations, He loves people. He loves not masses, but men. He loves us all with a mighty love that has no beginning and can have no end.  In Christian experience there is a highly satisfying love content that distinguishes it from all other religions and elevates it to heights far beyond even the purest and noblest philosophy. This love content is more than a thing; it is God Himself in the midst of His Church singing over His people. True Christian joy is the heart’s harmonious response to the Lord’s song of love.


Mike Naylor said...

Amen John.

Although President Trump will not be our savior, it certainly seems that God is using him to allow us more freedom. As salt and light in this dark and decaying world (Matt. 5:13) we need to take advantage of the time we are given as the days are evil (Eph. 5:16). The only true salvation for this world (morally, intellectually, eternally) is found in Jesus the Christ (John 8:32,14:6, 18:37). That message of salvation is to be delivered through us to the ends of the Earth (Matt. 28:18-20), for that is how God has ordained it.

For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!” But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed what he has heard from us?” So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ. (Rom. 10:13-17)

Soli Deo Gloria

John said...

Amen to your comments as well, Mike. Just reading this morning a challenge to realizing our dire need (my own need) of what Pastor Dan has called "a lifestyle of repentance" without which we have no hope or joy; and, politically, no basis for making right or honorable decisions and policy. Witness the deterioration of ethical behavior that is undermining our foundation as a nation.

But John 6:63 quotes Jesus as saying, "It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing; the words that I have spoken to you are spirit and are life." And, in John 6:66-67 we read the sad commentary,
"As a result of this many of His disciples withdrew and were not walking with Him anymore. So Jesus said to the twelve, "You do not want to go away also, do you?"

May our Spirit-led response be like that of Simon Peter [who] answered Him,
"Lord, to whom shall we go? You have words of eternal life (v 68)."

With God's gifts of Faith, Hope, and Love,