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Christians: Farewell to Rome

American followers of Christ have quite a conundrum on our hands. Our nation, nearly four years ago, elected Donald Trump president. The Trump train was powered by many prominent Christian pastors, evangelists, and a groundswell of white evangelicals.

In office, Trump is exactly what he was before he was elected. And you thought he was going to change? Yet here we are, getting the same sermons we’ve read and heard for four years. I’ve preached these myself:

Christians should not [insert word here] for Donald Trump. Let’s see: vote? Support? Defend? Shill? Worship? What?

David French published the latest reminder, an irrefutable take: “Will somebody please hate my enemies for me?” The juxtaposition of Arthur Brooks speaking on loving one’s enemies, immediately followed by the president hating on his enemies at the National Prayer Breakfast provided an ideal backdrop for French’s point.

How can Christians violate the command of our Lord and Savior in order to support a man who says he “fights” for us? Doesn’t Jesus fight for us? Isn’t our battle, “not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms?” (See Ephesians 6:12).

The simple answer is: we cannot. We cannot represent Christ and represent Donald Trump at the same time. It would be like a lawyer representing both parties in a lawsuit. It’s inherently a conflict of interest. To those who choose to defend Trump as he violates Jesus’s commandments, truly they have their reward.

However, what should a Christian do?

French makes his choice very clearly.

I’m an imperfect man, but when I’m aware of my sin, I repent. And I make a simple vow—by God’s grace, I will love my enemies, and I will not hire anyone to hate them on my behalf.

By “hire” I assume he means he will not vote for Trump. I understand that. I didn’t vote for Trump in 2016. I threw away my vote to a third party candidate who turned out to be a terrible disappointment. In 2020, the “binary choice” view that drove 2016–and we decried it then–is no longer simply a trope. The 2020 election is binary because Trump is the incumbent, and his opponent will be a choice of some very ungodly characters.

Joe Biden, among the Democrats, might be the only possibly acceptable choice, and he’s not someone I want to vote for. Staying home, however, in this case, is really voting for the Democrat, no matter who it is.

Should Christians stand apart, gazing into the middle distance, tearfully proclaiming Farewell to Rome as we depart for more heavenly places? Because in doing so, we have abandoned our world to God’s love, God’s power, without us to make a difficult choice. The choice we will have made is to say “NO!” to it all.

I think that may not be the right thing to do. I think we can show grace and love, starting with those Christians who are shilling for Trump, who are supporting Trump, who are running fully aboard the Trump train. They may be enemies for my sake–God knows I’ve seen what Trump’s trolls do to anyone who criticizes him–but their disobedience is for God’s grace.

The same with our political enemies on the left. We should show them grace, but not afford them the opportunity to leverage their power so we can fully turn the other cheek and invite persecution. If it be Trump, then let it be Trump. If I must hold my nose, and in heavenly protest, cast my vote for a man who I know would turn on Christians if it benefitted him (in other words, if Christians did what we were supposed to do and rebuked him), then so be it.

Sadly, there’s no easy solution here. Prayer, supplication to God, and loving your enemies is certainly what Christians should be doing. But the outworking of that love may allow us to vote for Trump without doing it in the spirit of hiring this man to hate on our behalf.

I think God’s love is more powerful than Trump’s hate. I’d love the opportunity to prove that. Gazing off and bidding Farewell to Rome is abandoning our fate to God, but so is voting for Trump, and loving through the hate. I think we can in fact be Christians, fulfill our duty, without representing Donald Trump, representing Christ, and cast our vote for him with a clean conscience.

Your mileage may vary, and my position may change. Blessings.

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