How “holy” do we have to be?
Will Donald Trump go to heaven? To be quite clear, I don't know, and I cannot and will not judge it. The American president has undoubtedly made a lot of progress in the Middle East and has stood by Israel like no president before him. Yes, in many aspects he stands for Christian values, is anti-abortionist and a friend of evangelical churches. But what about his repeatedly insulting behavior, which often does not correspond to a Christian lifestyle? Whether half-truths, polarizations, threats, ridiculing and degrading people via Twitter: Over the past four years Trump's messages have contributed to the brutalization of language and all too often turned opponents into enemies.
Some of our American friends argue that their president is not a pastor and therefore he should only be judged by his political work. Others excuse his behavior by saying that he is a young believer, whose behavior is simply not yet sanctified.
And this brings us to a crucial question: Can the character and lifestyle of a person be separated from his or her actions? How "holy" do we actually have to be? When someone says, "He probably thinks himself a saint," in Germany this is primarily mockery. We understand "to live holy" to be an attempt to strive for perfection and the highest possible degree of moral virtue, but that is exactly what the Bible does not say. Surely you realize now: This is not chiefly about Donald Trump. Rather, it is about the question of whether we are willing to let ourselves be corrupted by success - be it on a political or even on a church level - at the expense of our Christian lifestyle.
"Holy" (קדשׁ) is, according to the Hebrew meaning of the word, someone who has changed location and turned away from "worldly, profane, normal, everyday" things to God and has decided to live in the special sphere of influence of His "holiness". According to the Jewish understanding, "holy" is everything that belongs to God: heaven, the angels, the temple, His city Jerusalem, and also all people who have turned to Him and His Word. Whoever did come apart and purify themselves from everyday, profane life was unable to share in the presence of God in the temple. God's word in Leviticus 19:2 is clear: "You must be holy because I, the Lord your God, am holy" (NLT).
"Holiness" (ἁγιασμός) for the early Christians was first and foremost the term for belonging to Jesus Christ. If we believe that Jesus died for our sins and accept Him as our Savior, then we are sanctified or justified (see 1Corinthians 6:11). This is why Christians are called "saints" in the New Testament, even though they still had many character defects and did not always behave very Christian (see 1Corinthians 1:1.2.11; 5:1.2; 6:1). A "saint" (ἅγιος) is not a sinless person or a person of high standing in character, but someone whose sins God has forgiven and who has received the gift of eternal life.
This does not mean, however, that Christians may continue to live without change in their inner attitude, character and behavior. God's will for us is our sanctification (see 1Thess 4:3), which we should pursue (see Heb 12:14) and without which no one will see the Lord. The Bible is like a mirror. Through it, God shows us our sin and character defects. A Christian can be recognized by whether his life is increasingly transformed into the image of God (2Cor 3:18). The life in "sanctification" is the reflection of our relationship with God.
Will Donald Trump go to heaven? As I stated at the beginning of the article, only the living God will be able to answer this question. However, for our own lives we should look into the mirror of the Word of God ourselves. God's call to repentance and reconciliation comes at a high price!
Christians cannot condone half-truths, insults, the degrading and ridiculing of people and an increasing brutalization of language. As much as we are happy about Christian conservative positions and would like to see Israel strengthened, we need to draw a clear line between endorsed politics and the behavior of Trump that is not appropriate to the Christian testimony. Unfortunately, this has not been done often enough in the past.
Change always begins with us. In a few days, the world will be watching the presidential elections in the USA with great anticipation. Surely this will come as no surprise to you: I am praying for a continuity of the close relationship between the USA and Israel, which Donald Trump has promoted like no president before him. Trump is indeed no "saint". Neither is his rival Joe Biden, nor John F. Kennedy, Bill Clinton or George W. Bush, to name but a few. The list can also be complemented with any number of German politicians. Maybe we should also add our own names as a last item on the list.
At the same time, as someone who has learned from German history, I condemn any form of racism, hatred and superiority thinking. Whoever lives like this before God and the world will actually delegitimize himself over time. When someone wins a democratically legitimized election who may have a different political and ideological view, the Bible demands that Christians show gratitude, appreciation and respect.
Politicians do not need fans, but intercessors! In a year's time, Germany is also facing an election. Whether in the USA, Germany or in any other country: Now is the time for the imperfect, but sanctified "saints".
The next edition of our info magazine Offensiv on the topic of “holiness” will be available in November. Order your free copy now on www.tos.info/offensiv !