In the 2016 election, I was all-in with the media. I was the Christian who was fed-up with the candidates, but mostly with Trump, since He loudly claimed the title of Christian, gathering a large crowd of those who called themselves conservative Christians, but who seemed to only care about three of the verses in the Bible and discount the rest.
I was angry. I was angry that my God was being used as a political campaign tactic. I was angry at Trump’s degrading comments towards women, the crowning glory of God’s creation, who God so deeply values. Angry that he dared to call himself “pro-life” for what seemed like just the evangelical vote, when it seemed unlikely that he would actually do anything about it. Angry that I never saw an ounce of humility in any of his encounters. Angry that he acted like a toddler during debates, interrupting and disrespecting people instead of treating others with humility and kindness, like Christ calls His followers to (1 Pet. 5:5). Angry that I felt like I constantly had to explain myself for being a Christian at my liberal, public boarding school full of unbelieving people who were my friends, because of his thoughtless words. Angry that I constantly felt the need to disassociate myself with Trump fanatics.
Rage consumed my thoughts every time I saw news about the election. I called it righteous anger. Why won’t you destroy him, God? Show the world that you aren’t the God of hypocrites! Show him, God! Pride comes before a fall, right? Where’s his fall?
I wanted my unbelieving friends, those who were on the fence about Christianity, those who saw Trump’s crude and heartless actions, and then saw the support he was gaining from those who went to church, and said “this is why I am not a Christian” and “this is what Christianity is actually about,” I wanted them to know that I served a God of love and kindness. A God who made women, and said that they were equally made in His own image (Gen. 1:27). A God who cares about all of the unborn babies in mother’s wombs AND all who are born, like African Americans who have been unjustly murdered for too long. A God of justice, who cares about the marginalized and targeted (Pro. 31:8-9, Is. 10:1-3). A God who longs for His church to be of all races, white, black, and beyond (Rev. 7:9). A God who is humble and gentle with sinful humans, not loud, proud and trigger-happy—even though He has every right to not be humble, having created the universe with His own breath and remains holy in all that He does (Zech. 9:9, Matt. 11:28).
However, all the while, I made two mistakes:
Firstly, I thought this was the first time that God’s reputation was on the line because of hypocrisy, and I thought it was up to me to right Trump’s wrongs.
I thought that God had never encountered people who twisted His gospel for personal gain before Trump. (Hello, MM: false prophets? Wolves in sheep’s clothing? Prosperity gospel?) I have good news: His name will not be mocked, ultimately (Gal. 6:7). Our God will not allow His name to be used in vain forever. He can defend His own name, and vengeance is His—not mine (Romans 12:19).
God will right Trump’s wrongs one of two ways: either Trump will come to intimately know the God of the Bible, and he will be repaid in mercy and love because of the sacrifice of Christ Jesus—that which none of us deserve, you and me included. Then, he will start to act like our Jesus, full of kindness and compassion. Or, with grief and regret, he will meet the God of the Bible, and God will repay him what he has reaped.
Secondly, I was serving the God of love, the one who loved His enemies, and all the while I wasn’t loving my enemy.
I still think some of my previous anger is deserving and partially righteous, but it eventually turned into bitterness and constant rage. I allowed it to turn my heart hard, and I didn’t pray for Trump. I didn’t grieve the fact that his soul is lost. I didn’t ask God to save him and guide him. I just wanted him out of my sight, out of the way of my Christian witness. I simply saw him as an obstacle to my reputation, instead of living out the command to “love my enemies” (Matt. 5:44).
Like I mentioned earlier, I don’t think it’s wrong to be mad. I think it’s better to be mad than indifferent. However, I also have learned that allowing your heart to constantly fill with rage is not the answer, and it will only lead to a hard heart. The church won’t be better for it. Trump won’t be kinder because you continue to get angrier. The Church’s reputation won’t improve because throw a hissy fit about the president every two minutes on Facebook, and unbelievers won’t be converted because you are fuming every time you read the news. Unbelievers will come to know God because of the kindness and gentleness of Christian witness (Rom. 2:4, . Sometimes that kindness and gentleness even involves righteous anger, and still sometimes it simply involves a tongue that’s reigned in, a heart that is committed to not becoming cynical and hard, but rejoicing in hope (Romans 12:12).
Christian who allows anger to overcome them when they think about their president: I know you. I see you. I know where you are. I was you. Often, I still am you. You are angry that someone would dare to use Christ as a tool to win a political campaign. You are worried that our sweet, sacrificial Christ’s reputation is on the line. You are worried that a watching world will count out your God because of a man who abuses His name. You are aching to show the world that the God of the Bible is SO much different that the God of political, strongly right-winged, American “evangelicalism.”
But don’t make the mistake of allowing your anger toward a worldly leader over-come the command to soften your heart towards your enemies. Reactionary retaliation isn’t always righteous; being slow to anger, slow to outrage is a virtue. You can respectfully disagree, and you can respectfully be outraged. (I think this is a lost concept to many, but I hope we can re-gain it.) Ultimately, your responsibility is to love. Love is the only burden you have to bear, and sometimes that involved retreating from the news for a while. Sometimes it involves repentance for the harsh words you spoke against your extremist neighbor (left or right)! You should not necessarily condone Trump’s actions, give him your support, or act like you are happy with him all the time. You even should probably make it clear when real Christianity is getting confused with what we see in the news, but whatever you do, don’t let your heart get hard.
So bear this in mind, and go in peace, dear Christian:
You don’t have to carry the weight of your God’s name, because He does. You can manage your lot, resting in His sovereignty, showing the love of Christ to those around you, and know that He can defend His own name. Sometimes, He might use you to do that. You might have an opportunity to explain to your atheist co-worker why Donald Trump’s words about women are so much different than the dignity God gives to women. You do bear some responsibility as His follower, and this responsibility will come to the surface often. But you only bear your own responsibility, your own character, your own lot, to the people set in front of you. You don’t have to save God’s name in America; He can do that. You just work on your lot.
And in the same breathe, be angry when it’s appropriate, but not beyond that. Beyond that moment, anger isn’t righteous, it’s just criticism and cynicism (Ps. 30:5). Learn to tell when your anger is starting to take a toll on your heart, and learn to turn from it.
Finally, rest in our God’s sovereignty, remembering that God’s character has never depended on Trump’s.
“Here is my servant, whom I uphold,
my chosen one in whom I delight;
I will put my Spirit on him,
and he will bring justice to the nations.
He will not shout or cry out,
or raise his voice in the streets.
A bruised reed he will not break,
and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out.
In faithfulness he will bring forth justice;
he will not falter or be discouraged
till he establishes justice on earth.
In his teaching the islands will put their hope.”
This is what God the Lord says—
the Creator of the heavens, who stretches them out,
who spreads out the earth with all that springs from it,
who gives breath to its people,
and life to those who walk on it:
“I, the Lord, have called you in righteousness;
I will take hold of your hand.
I will keep you and will make you
to be a covenant for the people
and a light for the Gentiles,
to open eyes that are blind,
to free captives from prison
and to release from the dungeon those who sit in darkness.
“I am the Lord; that is my name!
I will not yield my glory to another“