As you may have already heard, there’s a chance that Donald Trump, the presumptive GOP candidate for President, not too long ago began a relationship with Jesus. He became a Christian. He got saved. How do we know this? Well, I have some inside info!
At a gathering of 1,000 evangelical Christian leaders in New York last week with Donald Trump and Ben Carson, my brother - who is very different than me in personality - introduced himself to quite a few in the room. In so doing, he interviewed Dr. James Dobson, the quintessential “father figure” of Focus on the Family ministries and author of over 25 Christian books. During that interview Dr. Dobson said that Mr. Trump had recently embraced a relationship with Jesus (you can go to godfactor.com to hear the audio interview). My brother scooped the story and blogged it Friday - it went viral being picked up by The New York Times, Politico, Meet the Press, The Daily Mail and others.
Now, in classic cynical fashion, people started chiming in about how they so significantly doubt that Trump did this. They say it’s just a ploy to get the evangelical vote. And some are expecting Trump to be hard at work completely retooling his platform, to their particular theological specifications, of course. Maybe they’re right. Maybe it wasn’t what some say it was. What if the Trump campaign simply uses this to their hopeful advantage? What if the Trump we see in the next few months hasn’t changed at all and his campaign for the Oval Office is just as bigoted, crass and arrogant as ever?
Well, I think we’ve gotten a bit off track in regards to faith and politics. Chew on this: God’s affection isn’t on the country, it’s on individuals. When the Bible talks about nations and kingdoms, it’s referring to people, not systems and structures. God has no interest in redeeming America or democracy, but He does have a vested passion in redeeming Americans - just as he has for every other people group in the world. This includes Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, Wolf Blitzer and even YOU! God does indeed set up nations and governments (Romans 13, 1 Peter 2). But God is in the people business. So, in the grand scheme of it all, what if Trump’s faith has zero to do with us, America - as if we’re the center of the universe - and it has everything to do with Mr. Trump, personally?
I’m thoroughly convinced that God can use and transform anyone He wants. Yes, we are to vote wisely, with our conscience for the man or woman of moral fiber and character whom we think will serve best as Commander in Chief (our selection seems pretty slim right now). Yet, I’m reminded of this verse in Proverbs 21:1
The king’s heart is a stream of water in the hand of the LORD; he turns it wherever he will.
You see, whether it’s Trump, Clinton or someone else, if God be God then all bets are off.
How about this, what if we put our egocentric, politically charged, cynicism aside and extend grace and patience not just to Mr. Trump but to everyone who “supposedly” committed their lives to Jesus? What if we allow them to grow and change in God's timing and plan and not ours? Jesus said, Matthew 7:16
You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thorn bushes, or figs from thistles?
Fruit takes time to mature before you can experience it’s sweetness. I know of several people who recently did “the Trump thing” and started a relationship with Jesus. Months have passed and I’ve seen some beautiful, wonderful change, but they’re not finished yet.
Reminisce with me for a moment. The year was 1983-84ish. Big hair was in and Van Halen was hot. I was in high school, in a relationship, on the soccer team and just living the teenage dream. Thanks to my two older brothers, I eventually did “the Trump thing”, I started a relationship with Jesus. But the next weeks and even years subsequent were, at best, embarrassing. I look back now at what I thought was good, Christian behavior and I hang my head in shame. I had a wonderful teacher who patiently discipled me through those years, I needed him more than I knew. But if a student today behaved the way I did back then, I’d doubt their faith, too. I’ve matured a little since. I understand that faith-growth often takes time - especially when someone spends 50-plus years of their life without God. My father gave his life to Jesus a week before he died. He was nearly 80, and he was still cursing up to his departure.
So, as I ponder what may have happened to Mr. Trump in light of the vitriolic statements, I wonder who’s more Christian. The one who is trying to figure out what the heck just happened when he surrendered to Jesus or the person who feels it necessary to critique another person from afar through an unarticulated rubric? Does the self-righteousness dripping from our keyboards make us better? Enlightened? Right? Or does it just show how much further in the faith we have yet to grow? I’m not saying live blindly, I’m suggesting we look wisely, judge rightly, full of grace and patience. I do believe when someone embraces Jesus there should be change - but what change and how fast is God’s agenda not ours.
But the LORD said to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the LORD sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart.” ~ 1 Samuel 16:7