I discussed this very briefly a week ago Sunday, but not everyone was present, so I thought I would mention it here, and perhaps elaborate a little more.
I don’t spend a lot of time on politics in the meetings of our church. Our God calls us to apply the Scriptures to every part of our lives, including our approach to political questions. But the instruction to “put not your trust in princes” (Psalm 146:3) is particularly relevant when every political party has rejected Biblical truth and morality, and Jesus said that His kingdom is not of this world. There are many more pressing issues in the life of believers than political questions.
Even less do I spend time on American political questions. For believers in this country, American politics may be of interest, but there is little they can or should do about matters across the pond. The British press and the BBC give such an incomplete and biased picture that many Christians here may not have well-formed views on American politics, but it doesn’t matter to faith and godliness. Jesus did not commission His disciples to go into all the world and preach the truth about American politics to every creature. 🙂
As I said when I discussed this last Sunday, I had no wish to discuss Donald Trump’s political policies. Anyone who really wants to can evaluate them in light of Scripture, and I would be happy to help with that (if asked) by pointing out some Scriptural principles. That is not how I want to spend our time together when we meet as a church, but I did say this:
If anyone ever tries to use the pulpit of our church to twist the Scriptures the way Donald Trump twisted them, he would not be allowed to finish what he was saying, and would be asked to leave the pulpit.
Donald Trump was asked about his favourite Bible verse:
“Well, I think many. I mean, when we get into the Bible, I think many, so many. And some people, look, an eye for an eye, you can almost say that. That’s not a particularly nice thing. But you know, if you look at what’s happening to our country, I mean, when you see what’s going on with our country, how people are taking advantage of us, and how they scoff at us and laugh at us. And they laugh at our face, and they’re taking our jobs, they’re taking our money, they’re taking the health of our country. And we have to be very firm and have to be very strong. And we can learn a lot from the Bible, that I can tell you.”
The Bible does indeed say, “an eye for an eye.” But it is NOT an incitement to a vengeful attitude towards those who take advantage of you, scoff and laugh at you.
The instruction was given as part of the legal code for Israel in the Old Testament. It was not meant to be vengeful, but to actually prevent vengeance greater in measure than the harm that was done. In property crimes, restitution was to be made, in some cases double in value, sometimes four times the value. But in personal injury crimes, the penalty was limited to the injury inflicted.
You could not kill a man’s whole family because he had murdered your relative. The penalty was limited to his life for the one that was taken, a life for a life. You could not kill him, or put out both of his eyes, if he put out one of yours.
The punishment was to be done judicially, and after witnesses had testified to the crime. If the punishment was to be strictly limited to equal the harm done by the criminal, then it could NOT be done in a melee where the victim or his family were “getting back” at the perpetrator. In open conflict, the injury was likely to be either greater or less than the original injury. For there to be an equality, it had to be done judicially.
This was not to be carried out with an attitude of vengeance, as was made clear elsewhere in the same law of Moses, when God declares that vengeance belongs to Him alone (Deuteronomy 32:35). That principle is repeated in Psalms, in the prophets, and in the New Testament.
Furthermore, the Lord Jesus instructed His disciples that in conflict they were to be peacemaking, not justice-seeking:
38 Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth:
39 But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also.
Jesus was not invalidating the Old Testament Law. He was telling His disciples that their first response should not be vengeful, but peaceable, when they were the victims.
He did not tell them that the Law was wrong, and He did not teach that government should fail to provide justice for victims. Rather, He taught that when His followers are the victims, and are able to do so, they should seek peace rather than complete justice or vengeance. Nor did He tell His followers to deprive other victims of justice under law — He simply told them to choose conciliation, when they themselves were the victims.
Christians may make themselves experts about their legal rights and be quick to assert those rights fully, but this is incompatible with the teachings of the Lord Jesus Christ. Thus, the Apostle Paul, elaborating on the principle our Lord stated, said, “If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men” (Romans 12:18). A vengeful attitude is completely incompatible with Christianity.
Donald Trump may have quoted Scripture, but he blasphemously twisted it into something far different from the true message of our Lord. He was abusing Scripture to attempt to reinforce a politics of wrath, envy, and vengeance.
It may work politically, at least in the short term, to stir up proud and vengeful attitudes in your hearers — certainly, many people throughout history have used this method to some effect, though it might be hard to find any who did so and ruled well. But whatever one thinks of the politics or the person involved, Christians must not be drawn into this way of thinking.
While American politics may be of minimal importance in a Scottish church, when our media reports a well-known politician abusing Scripture for his own ends, Christians can and should reject his false claims and the attitudes behind them. That IS relevant to our faith and godliness, and we do not accept his characterisation of the Scriptures we believe and teach. It is blasphemous.
(Please note my comment policy.)