This is a national prayer breakfast?

This is a national prayer breakfast?  I know some of you think Trump is the greatest thing ever for Christianity.  In spite of all the times he shows himself to be far, far away from the way Christians should behave.  And he’s done it yet again.  Is this really the guy you think is good for Christianity?

This is a national prayer breakfast?The msn.com headline reads: ‘Dishonest and corrupt’: Trump unloads at National Prayer Breakfast after acquittal.  Even without getting into what Trump said, does that headline sound like something that should be coming from a prayer breakfast?  And if you think it does, who exactly are you praying to?

If you’re a Christian and if you support Trump, I really urge you to keep reading anyway.  At some point, we all need to question whether or not we’re living out our faith.  But on top of that, we also need to verify that what we believe is actually Biblical.

I do just that.  And as a result, I find myself unable to be silent about what this president is doing to Christianity and to Christians who support him.  Why am I concerned about those things?  Part of it comes from two passages in John’s Gospel.

Here’s the first one.

Jesus Prays for His Disciples

Jn 17:6 “I have revealed you to those whom you gave me out of the world. They were yours; you gave them to me and they have obeyed your word. 7 Now they know that everything you have given me comes from you. 8 For I gave them the words you gave me and they accepted them. They knew with certainty that I came from you, and they believed that you sent me. 9 I pray for them. I am not praying for the world, but for those you have given me, for they are yours. 10 All I have is yours, and all you have is mine. And glory has come to me through them. 11 I will remain in the world no longer, but they are still in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name—the name you gave me—so that they may be one as we are one. 12 While I was with them, I protected them and kept them safe by that name you gave me. None has been lost except the one doomed to destruction so that Scripture would be fulfilled.

This was Jesus praying for the original eleven disciples.  The twelve minus Judas.  Note that He says, None has been lost except the one doomed to destruction so that Scripture would be fulfilled.

Jn 17:13 “I am coming to you now, but I say these things while I am still in the world, so that they may have the full measure of my joy within them. 14 I have given them your word and the world has hated them, for they are not of the world any more than I am of the world. 15 My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. 16 They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. 17 Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth. 18 As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world. 19 For them I sanctify myself, that they too may be truly sanctified.”

Although this passage was about the original disciples, the next passage will extend Jesus’ prayer to all future disciples, up to and including today.  That includes us, today’s Christians.  Assuming, of course, that we’re really true followers of Jesus.  That we don’t end up lost to destruction.

Jesus Prays for All Believers

Jn 17:20 “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, 21 that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22 I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one: 23 I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.

Jn 17:24 “Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world.

Jn 17:25 “Righteous Father, though the world does not know you, I know you, and they know that you have sent me. 26 I have made you known to them, and will continue to make you known in order that the love you have for me may be in them and that I myself may be in them.”

Notice the very first sentence.  I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message.  That’s today’s Christians as well.  However, the issue is this: what does Jesus mean by believe in me?  Over on my other site, there’s a lot of material related to just that question.  Believe is not just saying some words to the effect of “I believe”. 

It’s far more than that.  It’s believing in our hearts.  More than just saying some words.  It even goes so far as to mean that our belief is so strong that we will act upon those beliefs.  That Jesus’ teachings will be the guide in our lives.

Here’s another passage to consider.

Salt and Light

Mt 5:13 “You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled by men.

Mt 5:14 “You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.”

Here’s the thing about that last passage.  When we, as Christians, are so rabid in our support of someone like Trump, and especially when that support is because of what he’s supposedly doing for Christianity, I don’t think we’re doing a good job being a light on a hill.

And when Christian leaders come out to support Trump and what he’s doing for Christianity, it’s even stronger than being a light on a hill.  It’s teaching other Christians how to be that light on the hill.

What Trump said at the National Prayer Breakfast

So, with all that as a backdrop, here’s what Trump said.

In an apparent shot at both Pelosi, D-Calif., and Romney, Trump said: “I don’t like people who use their faith as justification for doing what they know is wrong. Nor do I like people who say, ‘I pray for you,’ when they know that that’s not so.”

“So many people have been hurt and we can’t let that go on,” he continued. “And I’ll be discussing that a little bit later at the White House.”

I don’t like people who use their faith as justification for doing what they know is wrong

Wow.  Let’s be honest here.  Does that really sound appropriate for a National Prayer Breakfast?  Or any prayer breakfast?

And does it sound right when it comes from someone who tries, and succeeds, to use your faith to do something you probably know is wrong?  Yes – he used your faith.  And he used it to allow him to do things that are wrong.  And that happens because you support someone who does wrong.  Someone who claims to be a great help to Christianity.

we can’t let that go on. … And I’ll be discussing that a little bit later at the White House.

And then he closes it with a threat.  Is that really Christian?

Do you remember the passage below?  

Love for Enemies

Mt 5:43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46 If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? 47 And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? 48 Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”

Do you honestly think Trump lives by that passage?  Or does he live by something almost 180 degrees opposite of it?

And please don’t come back with, “neither to the Democrats”.  It doesn’t matter.  Both sides use our religion as a way to sway us.  But that doesn’t matter.

The problem with the logic of it’s OK to repay bad behavior with more bad behavior is something else the Bible warns us about.  You’ve probably heard this passage from Paul.

Love

Ro 12:9 Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. 10 Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves. 11 Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. 12 Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. 13 Share with God’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.

Ro 12:14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. 16 Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited.

Ro 12:17 Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. 18 If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. 19 Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. 20 On the contrary:
“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.”

Ro 12:21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

It’s probably tempting to take the last part of verse 20 and use that to determine what the passage is about.  In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.  Then we think we’re doing something to Trump.  

However, here’s the problem with that.  


“heap burning coals on his head” This is an allusion to Prov. 25:21–22. The theories of interpretation are
1. this was a cultural idiom possibly from Egypt which meant that kindness is the best way to turn an enemy into a friend. It is still the Christian response to entrenched evil (cf. Matt. 5:44)

Conclusion – burning coals will make a friend out of the enemy.

2. “burning coals” seem to represent shame at one’s improper actions which are so clearly revealed in light of another’s love and forgiveness (cf. Ambrosiaster, Augustine and Jerome)

Burning coals represent’s shame.

3. Origen and Chrysostom said this refers to Christian kindness which causes God to judge even more severely the unrepentant (cf. the Jerome Biblical Commentary, vol. 2, p. 326).

Responding the way Jesus says will cause the other person, Trump in this case, to be judged even more severely.

The first one doesn’t seem likely.  It could, and probably does, work sometimes.  But it’s inconsistent at best.  The same is true for the second one.

The third one though, seems somewhat problematic.  If we follow this verse with this interpretation, are we doing it primarily, or only, because we want God to judge the person more severely?  That doesn’t sound very Christian.

After those possibilities, the author goes on to say:

All the above theories are only that.  1)Utley, R. J. (1998). The Gospel according to Paul: Romans (Vol. Volume 5, Ro 12:20). Marshall, Texas: Bible Lessons International.

So where does that leave us?

It leaves us here:

The key is in Paul’s summary statement in v. 21.  2)Utley, R. J. (1998). The Gospel according to Paul: Romans (Vol. Volume 5, Ro 12:20). Marshall, Texas: Bible Lessons International.

Ro 12:21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.


12:21 “Do not be overcome by evil but overcome evil with good” … Our response to unfair treatment will determine and reflect the level of our own inner peace and joy. Bitterness is a spiritual cancer. Believers must give it to God.  3)Utley, R. J. (1998). The Gospel according to Paul: Romans (Vol. Volume 5, Ro 12:21). Marshall, Texas: Bible Lessons International.

I like his conclusion better than any of the initially presented interpretations of these two verses.  

If it’s about our own inner peace and joy then we can continue to be the light on the hill.  We won’t get angry ourselves.  We won’t put our own souls at risk.  Our own hatred won’t lead us off the narrow path.

Conclusion – This is a national prayer breakfast?

The reality is that I won’t have any impact on Trump through what I write or say.  Maybe through prayer, but that’s it.

However, I might have an impact on you, the reader, through what I write.  And that’s part of why I do this. 

If you’re Christian, to get you to ask questions about your faith.  The way you live.  And whether your faith and way of life matches up with the Bible you have as the source for your Christianity.

If you’re not Christian, then to point out that what you see carried out in the political arena isn’t Christian.  And to say that if you’re turned off to Christianity because of what you see and hear happening in the political arena, please don’t be. 

Remember the picture at the top of the page?  The coffee cup with one whole coffee bean?  And no water?  It feels like there’s more coffee in that cup than there is Christianity coming from the mouths of all these political people.  No matter how often they say the word “God”.

So don’t just get mad at them  Or turned off by them.  Rather, turn to what Jesus actually taught.  You’ll probably find that you will actually like it.  The way it was supposed to be.


Image by Johannes Plenio from Pixabay


 

References   [ + ]

1, 2. Utley, R. J. (1998). The Gospel according to Paul: Romans (Vol. Volume 5, Ro 12:20). Marshall, Texas: Bible Lessons International.
3. Utley, R. J. (1998). The Gospel according to Paul: Romans (Vol. Volume 5, Ro 12:21). Marshall, Texas: Bible Lessons International.

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