President Donald John Trump was installed as President of the United States on Friday, January 20, 2017. In his 16 minute inauguration speech he outlined his vision for America and the world. While much of the commentary has taken aim at his political vision for America, my goal is to look at his vision through the eyes of a Christian who is also an American.
Every four years, we gather on these steps to carry out the orderly and peaceful transfer of power,
For all that’s right or wrong with America, it is a huge win for all Americans that we again witnessed a peaceful transition of power from one lawfully elected government to the other. As Believers, we recall the words of Romans 13:1, “Everyone must submit to governing authorities. For all authority comes from God, and those in positions of authority have been placed there by God.” No matter who the elected officials are, we owe them honor for the office they hold even if we disagree with the positions they take. Honor, however, is not silent assent as we’ll discuss later.
Americans want great schools for their children, safe neighborhoods for their families, and good jobs for themselves. These are just and reasonable demands of righteous people and a righteous public.
The expression “demands of righteous people and a righteous public” is interesting. To be righteous is to be “morally right; virtuous.” In theological terms, to be righteous is to be in right relation to God. But here’s the thing—is the American public righteous? Can we look at our national priorities and practices and say that we are in right relationship to God? In Joshua 7, the Bible recounts how the nation of Israel fell in defeat to the small city of Ai because the sins of one man’s household so defiled the nation that they were not righteous. To claim that America is a righteous nation before God is too high a claim for any nation.
Further, to intimate that the American people can demand great schools, safe neighborhoods and good jobs seems to suggest an entitlement to these things by virtue of simply being American. Nationalist pride is deceptive and dangerous. It leads people to believe that they have a righteousness apart from repentance and faith in the substitutionary death of Christ. Nationalist pride is different tan being proud of one’s nation. Nationalist pride caries with it a sense of superiority that is rooted in misplaced pride. As American Christians, we may love our nation, but we reject Nationalism.
From this day forward, a new vision will govern our land. From this day forward, it’s going to be only America first, America first.
“only America first.” Besides being a stark turn from the American position of using our power to help preserve order and protect those who are powerless, this part of President Trump’s address was particularly anti-Christian in my view. Here’s why: When I thought of the zero-sum, if-you’re-winning-then-I’m-losing way of looking at life it struck me how different that mentality is from the Father God’s. God is generous and giving. Before time was, God had everything yet He is not diminished in exercising His power to create and sustain the universe—quite the opposite, He demonstrates how great His love and power is through His generosity. What makes America great is her willingness and ability to stand for justice for all people. Though she has never lived up to this completely, we have exercised virtue over vice enough times to string together a tradition of valor that mimics, even if ever so slightly, the generosity of our Lord. Will that be a thing of the past for America or will we again use our might for right around the world.
The Bible tells us how good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity. We must speak our minds openly, debate our disagreements honestly, but always pursue solidarity. When America is united, America is totally unstoppable.
What’s the difference between what happened at the Tower of Babel and what happened in Acts 2 when the people were gathered in the Upper Room? The difference is that, at the Tower of Babel, the agenda was to bring glory to man’s efforts through conquest and achievement. In the Upper Room, the agenda was to seek power from God to be His witnesses for His glory. As I mentioned earlier, although we honor those in authority and root for the success of our nation, we are not called to be silent when we see our leaders doing wrong. Quite the opposite, we are the conscience of our land. By prioritizing the agenda of the Kingdom of God, we show Democrats and Republicans our allegiance to the true King whose kingdom is eternal. What a travesty it would be for our social media timelines to be filled with political rhetoric representing Democrats or Republicans and be void of Kingdom truth that points our nation to Jesus.
We are protected and we will always be protected. We will be protected by the great men and women of our military and law enforcement. And most importantly, we will be protected by God.
In Ezekiel 33, the Lord makes this chilling statement, “If I tell a righteous person that they will surely live, but then they trust in their righteousness and do evil, none of the righteous things that person has done will be remembered; they will die for the evil they have done.” Let me first distinguish the implications of this verse with the great Christian teaching that God keeps us in His hand forever once we are saved. Having said that, I do believe that God’s allegiance is to those who do His will. Surely, God has blessed America but if Americans, house by house, block by block, district by district, law by law, school by school—increasingly un-welcome God in our space, He will withdraw. If we walk in unrepentant sin, why shouldn’t He allow us to have the just penalty of our transgressions? While I certainly pray for God’s peace, I feel we must not lie to ourselves by saying that God will always protect us from hard times. That is not true. May we individually and as a nation honor the Lord and pray that He will continue to prosper our Land.