What do people see when they look at Christians? For most of those on the outside of the Christian establishment in the US, they see such things as:
- Hypocrisy and judgment, fear and bigotry
- A movement intent on forcing themselves and their values on others
- A group more interested in politics than following the call of their leader, a group where policies are more important than faith, hope, and love
- A religion that embraces a man who is the antithesis of the values that Jesus promoted (yes, I’m referring to Trump)
Of course, not all Christians display these characteristics. But the most visible ones do. Like the insurrections storming the US capital waving Jesus flags, shouting His name, or even kneeling in prayer before they attacked (though I’m not sure who they were praying to).
As another example, yesterday I shared an article about the reaction of many white evangelicals to Barack Obama as compared to their reaction to Donald Trump (you can read it here). You may not agree with Obama’s policies and political position on things, but he really did appear to be a decent person. Oh sure, he has character flaws, like all of us. But nothing like Trump. You may agree with Trump’s policies, but his character is toxic, his morals are despicable—all very visible for all to see.
In trying to understand why so many white evangelicals and other Christians seem to ignore character and support Trump, here are a few things I’ve discovered:
- He’s apparently against abortion
- Some Christians fear attack of their religious freedoms from the left, the supposed war on Christmas and all that—a very valid concern. And they see Trump as a defender of their right to practice their chosen religion. Look, Christianity’s been under attack from the beginning. The Pharisees who pushed for Jesus’ crucifixion tried to kill it, Roman emperors tried, and I suspect many others over the centuries have tried. But God and Jesus defended their Christianity just fine on their own—no need for the support of an elected official.
- And of course, money money money. The value of Christian 401k’s was often cited as an excuse for supporting Trump. VERY often cited.
Regarding the fear of attacks from the left, Jesus might say, “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.” (Romans 12:20)
Or, He might say, “I tell you who hear me; Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. If someone strikes you on one cheek, turn to him the other also. … Do to others as you would have them do to you.” (Luke 6:27-29, 31)
And regarding money, most people know what the Bible says about having too much interest in money, like obsessing about our 401k. As Jesus said, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matthew 6:21) And as Paul warned Timothy, “For the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil.” (1 Timothy 6:10). Wow, isn’t that the truth!
All of these reasons for Christians supporting Trump, and likely others I haven’t mentioned, boil down to an exhibition of profound hypocrisy, all because these people are more concerned about their wants than what Jesus wants. To this, Jesus might say: “You do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men.” (Mark 8:33)
So, what does Jesus want to see when He looks at followers of His Christianity? He gave us the answer quite clearly:
“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:34-35)
Imagine how outsiders might react if, when they looked at Christians, all they saw was love—no hypocrisy, judgment or other ugly stuff. Imagine the influence that visible love would have on those outsiders. Might some of them even be motivated to turn to Jesus for help? Might they want to experience the same love themselves? Imagine the Island of Love Christianity could become, being a paradise and refuge in these days of turmoil, anger, violence, and of course, COVID-19. Please, try to imagine it.
And if you can conjure up an image in your mind, now consider that that is what Jesus wants to see too.