The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost.-1 Timothy 1:15
There is so much that could be said about this verse. It is, perhaps, one of the phrases of Scripture that could be said to best describe the whole of a Christian’s confession and walk: the command to listen and believe, the confession of faith in the one hope any man has in this life or the next, coupled with the cry of insufficiency and guilt. It seems that the Gospel is always that dual cry—I am unworthy, I am a sinner, I hope in Christ alone!
And hope is what I want to talk about a little here, in the context of everything that we’ve been going through lately. I started working on this episode over a week ago and it’s taken me a while to have the time to finish everything and to do the editing I needed to do. In that time, the US inaugurated a new president, that president has begun to take actions in his new office, and the reactions I have seen in the media and amongst my friends have been…well, I don’t think “shocking” is the right word. But I think words like “disappointing” and “frustrating” are up there.
It is not my intention to support or attack Donald Trump. Neither is it my desire to discuss the ins and outs of particular political issues. What is my desire is to speak firstly to my brothers and sisters in Christ on both sides of this issue, and then to my friends who are not of the body of Christ.
My brethren: Come on, guys.
I don’t mean to make light of this or act like it’s no big deal, because it is. This life, this world is real, and everything we do has consequences. You, I, and Trump will stand before God to account for our lives and how we used what he has given us. At the same time, I feel that both Trump supporters and detractors within Christianity have forgotten something very important: namely, the Source of our hope. This is true no matter which side you find yourself on. I have seen his detractors absolutely lost, awash in despair and fear—and these are Christians. Yes, my friends, I know many of you believe that supporting a liberal political agenda in certain areas automatically makes you a heretic who would just as soon attend a Unitarian Universalist church as believe in the God of the Bible, but it has been to my great blessing in my time living here in Denton to get to know many men and women with whom I disagree on particulars of law and government, but who worship the one true God with me every week.
And at the same time, I see Trump-supporting evangelicals who are being very unloving and unkind to those who are not, by posting nasty memes and jokes, attacking and fighting extensively online, and, in general, not displaying an ounce of the grace they have been shown by our King. This is inexcusable and deserves rebuke. You are living as though the hope you have in this life and for the future of this country lies solely in the hands of Donald Trump. Let me assure you right now that is untrue, and if you truly believe that, you are hoping in something foolish. Not because Trump is or isn’t good, but because he is another sinful human who will ultimately only be able to accomplish what God allows him to.
Put not your trust in princes,
in a son of man, in whom there is no salvation.
When his breath departs, he returns to the earth;
on that very day his plans perish.
Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob,
whose hope is in the Lord his God,
who made heaven and earth,
the sea, and all that is in them,
who keeps faith forever;
who executes justice for the oppressed,
who gives food to the hungry.-Psalm 146:3-7
We do not hope in a man who is going to be dead some day. We don’t hope in a man who is dead already. Nor do we simply hope in some kind of theoretical idea that may or may not actually be true or realistic. We hope in Christ, and Christ alone.
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.-1 Peter 1:3-9
So am I saying that we should just give up on caring about politics? No, certainly not. But we need to be very careful that, as Christians, we do not engage this debate as unbelievers who have no hope beyond this life. We can engage each other in love, we can show tenderness, mercy and even, yes, weakness, knowing that even if what we go through leads to suffering, it is suffering that leads to greater joy. We ought to follow our consciences, we ought to make our cases boldly and with truth in hand, recognizing that ultimately both the left and the right in this country have at their core a humanist line of thinking that believes, “If I use the power of government in just the right way, I can perfect man at last. We can be free from pain and want, we can live perfect comfortable lives and be happy forever.”
Ultimately, neither will be able to achieve their goal, as long as that hope is based in humans and not in Christ alone. When Christ is King, all other things fall into place perfectly, rest and work and pain and joy all function in their right way, until the time comes for Jesus to set all things right, to wipe every tear and judge every injustice. We cannot, and should not, use the tactics of secular humanists, because those tactics insult the truth of the Gospel. I would be talking for hours here if I detailed this more, but I want to move on to my friends who have not believed the Gospel.
My message to you is not largely different, except that I do not bring with it an expectation that you will hope a certain way. Rather, I bring an invitation, a command even: repent, of your sins, your fears, and your faithlessness, and believe the Gospel of Jesus Christ. He alone is King, and Savior, and Friend to all who are hurting and in need. Do not rage against the truth. Do not fear the One who made you. I am calling you to let go of your foolish ideas of autonomy for yourself, and realize that you are much more “you” that you could ever be when you are with your Father, who made you and knows you.
This too shall pass, for good or ill. Trump will leave office one way or another, and someone else will be there. If God is willing, this country will see another day and will repent of the wickedness that is spread across the land in so many hearts. I sincerely hope, because of the hope I have in Jesus, that you will be one who turns in faith in our living hope, Jesus Christ the Son of God.