SINS OF PRESIDENTS
Back on November 13 of last year I sent out a “News & Views” titled “Sins of Preachers.” One of my readers suggested that I needed to also write about the “Sins of Presidents.” He thinks I should especially be “calling out” President Trump for his sins. He is not one of Trump’s fans, although he acknowledges that the president has done some good things, but also some bad things. I am curious as to how he thinks that is any different from any other president. They all have been human, and they all have done some good things and some bad things!
My reader reminded me of the prophet Nathan’s confrontation of King David concerning his sin with Bathsheba (II Samuel 11-12), and Nathan’s famous indictment of David, “Thou art the man!” (II Samuel 12:7, KJV, ASV). He seems to think that preachers today need to be pointing out the sins of presidents, and rebuking them for their sins. Certainly, the sins of presidents (as well as the sins of all humanity—Romans 3:10, 23) need to be pointed out, but if I may be permitted a facetious note, if I were to begin writing about the sins of presidents and the sins of governmental officials in general (local, state, national, and international), I would not have time to write about anything else!
It is true that God sent Nathan to David to confront him with his sin. The nation of Israel was a theocracy under God. David was an Israelite, an Old Testament child of God, charged with being a faithful ruler of God’s people. In the incident with Bathsheba, he violated his trust as a servant of God and deserved to be rebuked for his sin and called to repentance. But the United States is not a theocracy, and the president’s position does not arise from his being a spiritual child of God charged with keeping the country faithful to the New Testament will of God as set forth by Christ and the apostles. The United States is a country of an increasing number of many religions, including many corruptions (i.e., denominations) of original Christianity. There is no real political parallel between the Old Testament nation of Israel and King David and the United States and President Trump.
John the Baptizer rebuked Herod the tetrarch for his adulterous relationship with his brother Philip’s wife (Matthew 14:1-4), but some of John’s severest words were reserved for the pompous religious leaders of his day, the religious “know-it-alls” (Matthew 3:1-12). Paul reasoned with Felix the Roman governor “about righteousness, self-control, and judgment to come” (Acts 24:22-27), but he mainly preached to the Gentile populace scattered across the Greco-Roman world. When he encountered Agrippa the Jewish king Paul recounted his own conversion to Christ and sought to persuade Agrippa to become a Christian (Acts 26). Paul stood before both of these officials because he was being held as a prisoner and was there to defend himself. He had not made a special trip to their courts to rebuke them for their sins. Paul spent a good bit of his time writing to the churches, warning them to be on guard against false teachers. He was as rough on apostate preachers as he was on corrupt governmental rulers, and said far more about the former than he did the latter (see Romans 16:17-18; Philippians 3:1-3; I Timothy 1:18-20; II Timothy 2:16-18; I Timothy 4:1-5; II Timothy 4:10; et al).
Though the apostle Paul lived through the reigns of at least four Roman emperors, I read nothing from him in the way of “calling out” the sins of any of those emperors, including the depraved and perverted Nero. Instead, I see him urging Christians to be obedient to the laws of the land (Romans 13:1-7) and urging them to pray for “kings and all who are in authority” (I Timothy 2:1-2).
To the best of my knowledge only one president of the United States was a New Testament Christian, committed to the principles of undenominational, apostolic Christianity, and that was James A. Garfield, a former gospel preacher, who served as a Union General in the War Between the States, and as president of the U. S. from March 4, 1881 until his assassination and subsequent death on September 19, 1881. Lyndon B. Johnson was a member of the Christian Church/Disciples of Christ (which later assumed denominational status), but the principles of the restoration of New Testament Christianity seem to have been largely unknown to Johnson and even less practiced. Ronald Reagan likewise was baptized into the Christian Church in his youth and perhaps had some early and limited acquaintance with the principles of the restoration of apostolic Christianity, but later in life he became a Presbyterian.
I have lived from the presidency of Franklin D. Roosevelt to that of Donald J. Trump. I repeat: they all have been human, they all have been guilty of bad things. Sin is not limited to a particular political party. Presidents—Democrats and Republicans alike—have been profane, vulgar, drunkards, liars, fornicators, adulterers, notorious womanizers, sexual predators of young women, and racists (one well-known Democrat president was famous for his use of the “N” word in everyday conversation and reportedly promised that he would “have those n****** voting Democratic for the next 200 years,” yet I have never seen him “called out” for this by any gospel preacher). One left office in disgrace because of his impeachment. Such presidential “wanna-bes” as Gary Hart, Edward Kennedy, John Edwards, Hillary Clinton, and many others (Democrat, Republican, and Independent) carry their own baggage of sin and ill repute.
If I could be President Trump’s chaplain or spiritual adviser and have fifteen or twenty minutes a day with him (or just three or four times a week), I would lead him through a study of Christ’s Sermon on the Mount, pausing to make sure he grasped Matthew 5:31-32. I would direct his attention to numerous passages in both the Old and New Testaments that deal with important moral principles for the leaders of nations as well as for humanity in general. In time, I would lead him through a study of the book of Acts and what one must do to be saved from sin and a true New Testament Christian. I would talk to him about God’s grace, man’s faith, and the necessity of man’s obedience to the gospel. I would direct him in a study of the church of the New Testament and its undenominational nature, the importance of true and acceptable worship, and the necessity of a faithful Christian life in all respects. I would point out that we all sin, but that for the child of God there is a path to forgiveness (Acts 8:22; I John l:5-2:2). Yet, these are things that all people need to know, not just President Trump.
So, should we “call out” the sins of presidents? Unequivocally, yes, but no more so than the sins of others, including preachers, elders, local congregations (Revelation 2-3), and Christian colleges and universities—all while taking a good look in the mirror of God’s word at our own lives (see James 1:22-25).
January 15, 2019