Guest Post: When Policy Trumped Principle

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I don’t anticipate making too many friends with this post. However, as a follower of Christ, a pastor of a conservative church, and an American, I can’t stay silent anymore. I know I haven’t been completely silent, but I have tamed down my thoughts on this issue. But near-silence is not an option anymore. I care about this country too much. I care about the church too much. I care about the witness of the Evangelical church too much.

My goals in sharing this article are this:

  1. To call Christians to put God’s Word before nationalism.
  2. To encourage Christians who are struggling with this issue that they are not alone
  3. To show non-Christians that not every Evangelical is a supporter of Donald Trump.
  4. To start a dialogue (or at least contribute to it) about the future of Evangelical Christianity.

Please read the entire article before agreeing or disagreeing with me. Let’s show the world that civil discourse about ideas is still possible.

And, because it will be brought up eventually, just because I didn’t support Donald Trump for president doesn’t mean I voted for Hillary. It also doesn’t mean I don’t pray for the President of the United States. I do, and have almost every day since election night.

My heart grieves for this nation, the church, and the world my daughter is growing up in.

-Scott

 

When Policy Trumped Principle

by Jerry Gramckow

“Policies are many, principles are few, policies will change, principles never do.”                                       – John C. Maxwell

 

The year 2016 will go down in history as the year American Evangelical Christianity sold its collective soul for the proverbial mess of pottage. Don’t get me wrong: I love a bowl of stewed lentils—especially if some meat was diced and simmered into it. And, like Esau, after a long, hard day, with little to eat, I could easily be tempted to sell my birthright. I pray that when those temptations come I will remember the bigger picture—the long-term perspective over lentils.

Sadly, it seems to me, in the 2016 presidential election 82 percent of Evangelicals chose lentils. Faced with a choice between a morally bankrupt, power-hungry, socialist-leaning, woman, and a morally bankrupt, power-hungry, populist-leaning man (who claimed to be conservative), the vast majority of America’s voting Evangelicals chose the populist. In a binary world, they probably made the better choice. But the world is not really binary. We are rarely limited to choosing between terrible and dreadful. There’s almost always at least one other option.

Certainly, one of those two bad candidates was going to win. So, many calculated, better to choose the (slightly) lesser of two evils. It was, after all, the pragmatic thing to do. He might not be a great guy, but he has promised to enact policies we like.

But has God called His followers to pragmatism? Did God tell His people to put policies before principles? Are lentils now better than a righteous inheritance for future generations?

Eighty-two percent of Evangelicals knowingly voted for lentils, for a man whose entire life contradicted almost every imaginable biblical principle.

  • Love God first? Everything about Donald Trump screams self-love as his primary focus.
  • Sanctity of marriage? Which one? He’s had three and bragged about cheating throughout each marriage. And who can forget: “Grab ‘em by the pu***.”
  • Integrity in business dealings? Two words: Trump University (although many more could be added).
  • Love of money as the root of all evil? “My whole life has been money. I want money. I want money. Greedy, I was greedy, greedy. I want more money, more money.”
  • Humility as a virtue? “It’s very hard for them [some women] to attack me on looks, because I’m so good looking.” “And I’m sorry losers and haters, but my I.Q. is one of the highest—and you all know it! And I also have the world’s greatest memory.”
  • Compassion for others? “You’ve got to see this guy: ‘Uhh, I don’t know what I said. Uhh, I don’t remember,’ he’s going like ‘I don’t remember,’” Trump said as he mocked the disabled reporter’s uncontrollable hands.
  • Honesty? Too many lies to list here, but see https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2017/06/23/opinion/trumps-lies.html

Okay, you say, I get it; he’s no saint. But at least he’s better than Hillary. And now we’re back to that binary thinking. Hillary Clinton is a dishonest, immoral person, so the one who opposes her is good—simply because he opposes her. After all, the enemy of my enemy is my friend. That was what Churchill and Roosevelt believed when they cozied up to Stalin against Hitler. How’d that work out? But then, these days, Russia—ruled by an ex-KGB spy—once again seems to some to be a good bet.

So that binary thinking has, for the watching world, tied Evangelicals and all they say they stand for to a man devoid of principles. We stand for love of God, sanctity of marriage, business integrity, humility, compassion, and honesty … to a point. But when we are forced to choose between those principles and getting policies that benefit us (at least in the short term) … Well, a guy has to draw the line somewhere.

“What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul?” (Mark 8:36).

Well, what should we have done? Should we have let Hillary win and take us down the road to godless socialism?

Socialism is bad. No argument there. But if a Christian must jettison virtually every biblical principle to resist it, has he really won? I suspect that had Hillary Clinton won the election, she would have taken us further down the path to socialism and other evils. Instead, we have President Trump taking us down the path to white nationalism. Yes, we faced a horrible choice in November 2016. But, sometimes, when faced with two bad options, the best choice is neither.

Instead, Evangelicals put Trump over the top, and as a consequence, we will forever be remembered for that choice. People outside Evangelicalism now—and in the future—see Donald Trump, a man devoid of principles, as the standard bearer for Evangelicalism.

“If Donald Trump represents what Evangelical Christians hold dear, I want nothing to do with your religion.” Expect to hear that as a common refrain.

We got our bowl of lentils. We lost our birthright.

 

Jerry Gramckow

 

 

Single-mindedness…

1_7-8 Single Chess Piece

“That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do.” –James 1:7-8 (NIV)

The United States has already fought one civil war (or two if you are on the British side of American Independence…), and it is dangerously close to another one. The idea of a “Civil War” is what is conveyed by “double-minded” here in James 1:8. It literally means two souls. There is a divided allegiance in your mind and it feels like that allegiance shifts depending upon who is winning. This type of double-mindedness leads to instability. The Ancient Israelites were known for this type of instability. Throughout the Old Testament you see them going here and there to solve problems, but rarely do they go to God. James had just told us to go to God for wisdom in the midst of trials. We need to echo Joshua’s words, “But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve… but as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord” (Joshua 24:15).

Other aspects of being double-minded is not even knowing what you want, not being able to look both ways at once, and knowing that you need to leave it up to God but wanting to solve it all by yourself. Is that you?

What is the solution to being double-minded? It isn’t easy. That is, it isn’t easy to do on our own. No surprise here, but the solution is to decide who you will serve: The world or God? God is looking for 100%. Don’t misunderstand me, this is not an issue of salvation, but sanctification. All that is required for salvation is belief in Christ’s atoning work on the cross. However, sanctification is a radical call to obedience. If you feel like your life has been like a raft on the open ocean, up and down with no sense of direction, perhaps the reason is disobedience. As a friend once told me, “The way of salvation is easy, too easy for most to accept, but the way of discipleship is difficult, too difficult to do without help.” James would agree, we need God’s help.

Be single-minded in your devotion to the Lord.

Even if our nation is on the brink of another civil war, your life doesn’t have to be. You can choose who to follow, yield to His will for your life, and live a joyous life of obedience.

What areas of your life feel double-minded?

Do you have instability in your life? In what area? Could the reason be you are trying to solve it on your own without God’s wisdom?

What would it take for you to completely submit your life to God?

What is holding you back from committing to Him right now?

No Doubt…

1_6 Ocean

“But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind.” –James 1:6 (NIV)

We saw in verse 5 how we should ask for God’s wisdom if we lack it and God will give it to us. This sounds almost like God is Santa Claus! If we just write Santa a letter, we will get what we ask for. But James puts a condition on our request. We must believe. This means the prerequisites to God’s provision of wisdom are: 1. You are a Christian, and 2. you pray in faith.

In regard to the first prerequisite, it only makes sense that God’s wisdom is provided to followers of Christ. Why would those who don’t believe in God turn to God for answers? 1 Corinthians 1:18 says, “For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” Believers have access to God’s wisdom through prayer. But, then comes prerequisite numero dos.

We must pray in faith. It is easy to trust God when things are going well, but if you sprinkle in some pain, testing, or trials, doubt creeps in. Doubt is pausing or holding back in uncertainty. We need to be honest about our doubts. Even pastors have doubts! We need to pray, “Lord, I believe, help me in my unbelief.”

If we have doubts, James says we are like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. One of my favorite places is the beach. I love seeing the expanse of the ocean, I love listening to the waves crash on the shore, I love the call of the birds, I love everything about the ocean. But it is also unpredictable. A wave may be bigger than we can tell, there is the undertow that can drag you out to sea, and a whole host of other things (sharks!). Our doubt is like the uncertainty of the sea. It blows us around from side to side. A mind that wavers is not completely convinced God’s way is the best. We try to retain the option to disobey.

How often have we said we believe and trust God, but then work at it as if He doesn’t exist?

What about you?

What are you trusting in? Yourself? God’s wisdom?

Why do we doubt God’s provision?

When you ask God, do you truly believe He will answer your prayer (especially when you ask for wisdom)? Remember, God does not always answer our prayers the way we think He will.

Need Wisdom?

1_5 Wisdom

“If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.” –James 1:5

As we go through trials, we inevitably have questions. The biggest question is “why?” The good news is we are not left to strive or struggle (with joy) on our own. God tells us that if we don’t know something, we should ask! However, at this point, we must recognize the difference between knowledge and wisdom. Knowledge comes through work and study, wisdom is the ability to apply that knowledge is every day decision making. This leads to another incredibly important issue: the source of wisdom.

Scripture is clear that God is the source of all wisdom. James tells us that if we lack wisdom, we should ask God. It is crucial to look to the right places for answers. If you go to the world’s system, you are going to be told what the world thinks you should do. Not surprisingly, the world is often wrong. God, and only God, has the proper perspective on our trial. Only He can see the big picture. Only He can see tomorrow. If we have access to this type of wisdom, which James says we do, why would we not ask God?!? To top it off, God gives us wisdom generously! That is a promise of God we can stand on.

God loves it when we come to Him, seeking His wisdom. We can’t afford to make decisions on our own. We need God’s wisdom.

How about you?

Do you look to the world or to God when you have questions?

What is stopping you from relying on God’s wisdom?

In what area of your life do you need wisdom? Stop. Ask God for it. Then wait.

When we ask God, we are talking to Him, this is known as prayer. How are your prayers?

How much time do you spend seeking Godly council or relying on earthly advice?

Grow up…

1_4 Baby

“Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” –James 1:4 (NIV)

There is an interesting word at the beginning of this verse, “Let.” This means we have a choice. As we’ve seen, we can choose how to respond when trials come our way. We can look for the easy way out, rely on our own strength, run, or face it with God’s help. The choice is ours. If we choose God’s way, perseverance will finish its work. We will grow in holiness, maturity, and Christlikeness. These are all goals of the Christian life.

When it comes to maturity, it is sad to see so many Christians still act like baby’s years after they are saved! Imagine having to spoon feed a 23-year old who is physically capable of feeding himself (or herself). When our daughter was born, she was completely helpless. She relied on us for everything: food, clothing, shelter, comfort, diaper changes, everything. As she is growing older, she is relying less and less on us. Her favorite saying these days is “All by myself,” which she says about everything!

Similar to our physical life, our spiritual life should become less and less dependent on man (always recognizing our need for our Heavenly Father and the importance of growing in community). I often tell folks that if you tried to only eat one meal a week, you would physically die. The same goes for our spiritual diet. If you only feast on God’s Word once a week, you are starving yourself. You must learn how to feed yourself!

What about you?
Do you want to mature in your faith?Do you want to grow up into a vibrant follower of Christ?

If so, look at your trials as seasons of spiritual growth; let God stretch and mold you into His image, into His child.

Testing faith…

1_3 Test

“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.”-James 1:2-3 (NIV)

Tests are given to see if a student can pass. So, trials in our lives serve as tests of faith. Trials are not always evidence of God’s displeasure; Job is an example of this. He was “blameless and upright; he feared God and shunned evil” (Job 1:1, 8). Yet he lost everything, his kids, his livestock, his friends; only his nagging wife was sparred. What we learn from Job’s story and what James is trying to remind us is that if we are followers of Christ, then everything that happens to us has been filtered by the Father. He has allowed whatever trial is going on in our life. We can trust the Lord’s discipline, “My son, do not despise the Lord’s discipline, and do not resent His rebuke, because the Lord disciplines those He loves, as a father the son he delights in” (Proverbs 3:11-12). These trials that are allowed by God are there to produce perseverance. Perseverance is linked with endurance and patience.

One thing I’ve noticed about patience, immature people are always impatient. I’m raising a three-year old now, who daily gives me an opportunity to display patience. She knows what she wants and she wants it now! But impatience isn’t limited to kids…  Adults have a problem waiting to buy what we want, so we go into massive debt to get what we want when we want it. We used to have to save for things. Not anymore.

We’ll talk more about perseverance and its effect upon us in our next post.

Verse three starts with “because you know…” These were persecuted followers of Christ that had learned, and were continuing to learn, what James was saying. They were learning by experience that trials lead to perseverance.

 

How do you usually respond to trials or setbacks in your life?

What is testing your faith?

Do you truly believe that God is sovereign? If so, you can trust that your trial is “Father filtered.”

How have you experienced the Lord’s discipline in the past? [this is also known as chastening.]

Where do you need more patience in your life? Ask God!

Pure joy…

1_2 Joy

“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds…” –James 1:2 (NIV)

We are going to face trials in this life. They are guaranteed. What should be our attitude? James tells us we should be joyful! Consider means to fix your mind upon, pay attention to, or have regard to. This is describing an attitude and not a feeling. When we go through trials, the last thing we want to think about is our attitude. We want to get through it as quickly and as painlessly as possible. But James says no, we should examine our attitude. Joy dispels gloom and causes cheer. Pure joy is deeper than that! And that should be our attitude and our experience.

What type of trials? These are trials external to us [We will talk about internal struggles later]. Trials such as cancer, ill health, bankruptcy, competition at school, deadlines at the office, disappointed friends, sorrow, family discord, unmet expectations, and the list can go on and on. We call these the “storms of life.” We must realize there is a purpose in these trials. We may not ever know the purpose, but there is one.

Listen to this, “Fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfector of faith. For the joy set before Him, He endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:2). Did you catch that? Jesus went to the cross with an attitude of JOY! How is that possible?

What trials are you going through? How’s your attitude?

Do you look for the joy in the midst of trials? Why or why not?

Every day, God finds another way to ask you, “Do you trust me?” How are you answering that?

Is there someone you are close to who is experiencing a trial? How can you help them see joy?