For years, we evangelicals have professed uncompromising values when it came to sexual morality, faithfulness in marriage, integrity of character, and Christ-likeness in attitudes and behavior. To compromise these deep core values is to take a giant step into hypocrisy. Sadly, much of American culture witnessed evangelical Christians lay these professed values aside for the sake of achieving political agendas. This reinforced their already negative attitudes concerning Christianity. Not all but many evangelicals stated they voted for the Trump campaign because the Democratic nominee was worse, forgetting they had made their choice from six other competent conservative candidates, many of whom had solid track records concerning lifelong commitments to Christ.
For Christians, there is a litmus test for leadership. When it comes to politics, a litmus test is defined as “a question asked of a potential candidate for high office, the answer to which would determine whether the nominating official would proceed with the appointment or nomination.” For the Christian, the framework for such a question can be found in Galatians 5. Here Paul provides a list of the “Fruits of the Holy Spirit.” This list provides nine attributes or qualities that characterize someone who has the Spirit of God working in them. Paul says it like this:
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.”
When Christians are in the process of making decisions as to whom we would trust to have authority over us, it would be wise to visit this list of godly attributes. At the same time, wisdom would suggest we should reverse the list and decide which of the two sides of each of these traits best characterize the person in question. It might look like this:
Christ-likeness vs. contrary traits:
▪ Love vs. self-love, egocentric, narcissistic, prideful.
▪ Joy vs. instigating anger, anxiety and depression.
▪ Peace vs. instigating fear, disunity and hostility.
▪ Patience vs. impulsiveness, rashness.
▪ Kindness vs. mean-spiritedness, bullying.
▪ Goodness vs. bad behavior, provoking, demoralizing.
▪ Faithfulness vs. unfaithfulness, disingenuousness.
▪ Gentleness vs. harshness, arrogance, authoritarian.
▪ Self-control vs. impulsive, without restraint.
This list reminds us what it looks like when a person is being not only led by the spirit, but has been empowered by God for the sake of living a Christ-like life. For a Christian, a scripture as clear as this should speak for itself and need no further commentary.
Most people don’t expect leaders to be saints, but they should be worthy of the authority they hold. When people of faith cast their vote, it would be expected that their vote would be a reflection of sincere beliefs and values. Donald Trump’s values and behavior are utterly beyond the reach of Christ-likeness.
Evangelicals are at a crossroads. One path leads back to reaffirming biblical values. The other continues to justify immoral and dangerous behavior in a leader. This is not about Donald Trump’s personal morality but rather about the moral compromises supporting him is fostering among evangelicals every day. If today’s generation must stay on its present path, I pray the next generation will lead us back to the biblical values which tell us who we are.
Tri Robinson is the retired founding pastor of a large evangelical church in Boise and the author of seven books, most of which concern the pursuit of an authentic Christian life. His most recent is “Re:Form – The Decline of American Evangelicalism and a Path For the New Generation to Re:Form Their Faith.”