I hate losing. I really do. Just ask my wife or anyone who’s played board games or sports with me. The competitive monster reared its ugly head again recently when a couple ministry buddies and I were playing NBA Jam on Super Nintendo. I woke up my friend’s baby screaming about losing on a buzzer-beating, game-winning, underhanded full-court shot.
I know. I have a problem. But maybe I’m just a product of my culture. Americans are obsessed with winning. It’s one of the main reasons why athletes inject illegal substances into their bodies and parents lose their minds when their kids do poorly in church recreation leagues. It was also a driving force behind countless Americans’ decision to either vote for Trump or Clinton, even though they found many of both candidates' character traits reprehensible.
During President Trump’s God and country-laden inauguration, he confidently declared, “America will start winning again, winning like never before.” To many, this proclamation was like music to the ears. However, it’s imperative that we analyze Trump’s ‘winning’ strategy through a biblical lens before getting swept away in the Christianish momentum like so many believers did in the early fourth century with Constantine.
Though there are many statements from his speech I could draw from, I’m going to examine three that I consider particularly striking.
“From this day forward, a new vision will govern our land. From this day forward, it's going to be only America first — America first. … We will seek friendship and goodwill with the nations of the world. But we do so with the understanding that it is the right of all nations to put their own interests first. We do not seek to impose our way of life on anyone but rather to let it shine as an example. We will shine for everyone to follow.”
What President Trump said sounds good for citizens of a country who feel their taxes and resources have been unjustly and unnecessarily used to lift up other people groups instead of blessing the citizens and infrastructures here at home. But how do the values of the kingdom of God compare or contrast to his statements?
They came to Capernaum; and when He was in the house, He began to question them, “What were you discussing on the way?” But they kept silent, for on the way they had discussed with one another which of them was the greatest. Sitting down, He called the twelve and said to them, “If anyone wants to be first, he shall be last of all and servant of all.” – Mark 9:33-35
Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus. – Philippians 2:3-5
There’s quite a distinction between the two views, wouldn’t you say? Let’s move on to the second statement from Trump’s address.
“At the bedrock of our politics will be a total allegiance to the United States of America and through our loyalty to our country, we will rediscover our loyalty to each other.”
Metaphorically speaking, a ‘bedrock’ refers to the fundamental principles on which something is based. Therefore, Trump said that everything he is planning to do in office is going to be established through complete and total loyalty and allegiance to the USA. Not 50%, not 80%, absolute allegiance. And only through total allegiance to the USA can we truly become loyal to each other. What does King Jesus have to say about that?
Do not think that I came to bring peace on the earth; I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I came to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; and a man’s enemies will be the members of his household. He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; and he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me. – Matthew 10:34-38
One of the scribes came and heard them arguing, and recognizing that He had answered them well, asked Him, “What commandment is the foremost of all?” Jesus answered, “The foremost is, ‘Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God is one Lord; and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” – Mark 12:28-31
Jesus is not okay with coming in second place to your wife, job or country. Being the Lord of heaven and earth, He rightly demands absolute allegiance. And, King Jesus says that only by being totally devoted to Him can we begin to love one another as ourselves.
Finally, let’s look at the third, and perhaps most egregious statement from President Trump’s inauguration speech.
“Our country will thrive and prosper again. We stand at the birth of a new millennium, ready to unlock the mysteries of space, to free the Earth from the miseries of disease, and to harness the energies, industries and technologies of tomorrow. A new national pride will stir our souls, lift our sights, and heal our divisions.”
Um… who is supposed to usher in a new millennial age and then completely eradicate disease forever? Oh yeah, I remember reading about that in Revelation and it’s not a US President. It’s God Almighty. Someone is coming dangerously close to sounding like a blaspheming Führer.
Though you may not think so, I’m not interested in bashing the President. We should pray for him. I’m interested in advancing the kingdom of God and watching over His sheep.
Satan is crafty, and we should be mindful of the fact that the biggest threats that he has posed to the Church have not come from outside, but inside our ranks. The persecutions that Emperors Nero, Domitian and Valerian inflicted upon the faithful actually served to spread the gospel like wildfire.
The greatest threat to Christianity in the first three hundred years was Gnosticism… a group that claimed to be Christian, yet often lived quite licentious lifestyles without feeling the need to repent. Go to heaven and live like a heathen? Their philosophy tickled the ears of countless shallow believers, and Satan’s ruse ravaged the Church.
We must stay vigilant and filter all things through Jesus’ life and words. We must neither let a lust of winning nor a fear of losing in worldly matters govern our decisions. We need to be more like the faithful early Christians who gave everything to win the prize that really matters. So may we be inspired by their allegiance to the kingdom of God and run the race marked out for us with enduring loyalty to the true King!