Perhaps you saw the news clip of him as he walked into church smiling and waving, and clutching his Bible. I watched with mixed emotions; angry at his deceit, and hopeful his entrance into church was sincere and not merely a facade. I find it hard to trust him.
We have all heard the many accusations against President Clinton. We have seen his outwardly apologetic demeanor. We have felt a collective distrust and frustration. And so we talk to our family and friends and share our emotions and our opinions and wonder, “will he be impeached?”.
The issue of impeachment is, of course, just one of many issues in this unfolding drama. Many ask themselves if the Armenian Apostolic Church has anything to say to the many issues presented to us daily regarding the ‘scandal in the white house’. While the Bible, our main source of doctrine, does not contain the same language being used so frequently today to address the issues on Capitol Hill, (That is to say the terms: inappropriate, sexual relationship, suborn, perjury and impeach do not even appear in scripture), the Bible and church do indeed have a great deal to say to the issues being presented in today’s media regarding the President. This article will address a number of the ongoing controversies in Washington from a biblical perspective and will endeavor to answer some questions that so many of today’s Christians are asking themselves.
Why would God let a guy like this become president in the first place?
One of the beautiful traditions of the Armenian Apostolic Church is that at the end of Badarak each Sunday when the faithful approach to kiss the Holy Bible the Priest says ‘Datseh Der Usd Srdeet koom’, that is to say, “May the Lord grant to you according to your heart.” We believe that God will grant the earnest desires of a person’s, or a people’s heart. This belief is not unprecedented, but is, rather, supported by scripture.
The story of the Old Testament, which is Israel's record of how God worked in the life of their nation, sheds some light on God’s modis operandi in this area. Long ago when Israel was young and was still being led by prophets and judges, they became jealous of something the other nations had. The Israelites looked at the nations around them and realized that the other nations had earthly kings. The other nations had rulers who lived richly and who looked good and who you could go and meet with. And the other nations looked at Israel and asked, ‘Where is your king’. Now, of course, the Israelites’ king ruled from on high in heaven. But after the Exodus from their bondage in Egypt, the nation of Israel gradually forgot about their Redeemer God; then they became self-conscious and wanted an earthly king. See, up until then Israel was ruled by prophets and judges, (who operated somewhat like today’s judges except the judge was the jury too). One of the greatest Judges in Israel’s history was Samuel. The Bible tells us that,
When Samuel became old, he made his sons judges over Israel. ... Yet his sons did not walk in his ways, but turned aside after gain; they took bribes and perverted justice. Then all the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah, and said to him, "Behold, you are old and your sons do not walk in your ways; now appoint for us a king to govern us like all the nations." But the thing displeased Samuel when they said, "Give us a king to govern us." And Samuel prayed to the LORD. And the LORD said to Samuel, "Hearken to the voice of the people in all that they say to you; for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected me from being king over them. According to all the deeds which they have done to me, from the day I brought them up out of Egypt even to this day, forsaking me and serving other gods, so they are also doing to you. Now then, hearken to their voice; only, you shall solemnly warn them, and show them the ways of the king who shall reign over them." So Samuel told all the words of the LORD to the people who were asking a king from him. He said, "These will be the ways of the king who will reign over you: .... He will take the best of your fields and vineyards and olive orchards and give them to his servants. He will take the tenth of your grain and of your vineyards and give it to his officers and to his servants. He will take your menservants and maidservants, and the best of your cattle and your asses, and put them to his work. He will take the tenth of your flocks, and you shall be his slaves.
And in that day you will cry out because of your king, whom you have chosen for yourselves; but the LORD will not answer you in that day." But the people refused to listen to the voice of Samuel; and they said, "No! but we will have a king over us, that we also may be like all the nations, and that our king may govern us and go out before us and fight our battles." And when Samuel had heard all the words of the people, he repeated them in the ears of the LORD. And the LORD said to Samuel, "Hearken to their voice, and make them a king."
1 Samuel c. 8
The Israelites should have wanted to be ruled by God alone in heaven. Instead they wanted someone who looked good and who would make them look good before the other nations. As time went on, of course, Israel paid for their faithlessness and suffered tremendously under the reign of their first earthly king. God gave Israel the desire of her heart; not because it was what she should have wanted, but because it was what she earnestly and stubbornly desired. When a nation, or a voting body in a democratic nation earnestly desires a certain person to rule over them, God may sometimes allow it precisely for the reason that the nation learn a lesson as to who they should really view as their King, or President.
Should we forgive the President?
Of course. As Christians we are soldiers in the army of God, and God has commanded us to forgive. Our Lord’s command to forgive extends even to those who continually commit the same sin against us. Even if someone repeatedly lies to us, we are called to offer to them forgiveness. Jesus said,
Take heed to yourselves; if your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him; and if he sins against you seven times in the day, and turns to you seven times, and says, 'I repent,' you must forgive him." (Luke 17:3-4 )
By forgiving we demonstrate the love of Christ, God’s love, to others. Remember too the story of the young woman who was brought to Jesus having been caught in adultery...
The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery, and placing her in the midst they said to him, "Teacher, this woman has been caught in the act of adultery. Now in the law Moses commanded us to stone such. What do you say about her?" This they said to test him, that they might have some charge to bring against him. Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground. And as they continued to ask him, he stood up and said to them, "Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her." And once more he bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground. But when they heard it, they went away, one by one, beginning with the eldest, and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him. Jesus looked up and said to her, "Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?" She said, "No one, Lord." And Jesus said, "Neither do I condemn you; go, and do not sin again." John 8:3
It is interesting too to note that in the preceding passage the eldest went away first. They had lived long enough to learn humility and to know that they were sinners. How easy it is to have a spirit of condemnation against those who commit the sin of adultery. But let us remember that Jesus extended the standard definition of adultery to call humans to a greater understanding of morality. Jesus said, "You have heard that it was said, 'You shall not commit adultery.' But I say to you that every one who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. (Mat 5:28) Understanding that all those who ‘look at a ‘member of the opposite sex’ lustfully are adulterers, we can also understand that adultery, according to Jesus’ definition, is incredibly widespread. As Christians we are called to be loving and forging to all those who commit adultery, be it by deed or thought. We are called to continually offer God’s forgiveness to all people; including repeat offenders.
Can someone who forgives the President still support his being impeached?
It is interesting that some on Capitol Hill have asked, “Should we forgive the President, or impeach him?” This suggests that to impeach him is unforgiving. The suggestion being made by some that an attitude of forgiveness is inconsistent with a desire to impeach leads us to question, “Can a Christian forgive the president and at the same time support his impeachment?”
Some think that forgiveness means there is no consequence for a wrong. How can someone who forgives someone enact a consequence for someone who they have just forgiven? Some wonder, “aren’t forgiveness and discipline/consequence/punishment mutually exclusive?”
Let’s examine this same question using some other examples:
Your child scribbles on the wall with crayon. Can you forgive him and still make him clean up the wall?
You own a company and caught your treasurer stealing from the company safe. Can you forgive him and still remove him as treasurer?
Hopefully the preceding illustrations make apparent that forgiveness and discipline can easily coexist. Of course, there are examples of this from the Bible as well.
Adam and Eve: Punished and Forgiven
Adam and Eve were forgiven, but God still cast them from the Garden of Eden. For God there are still consequences for sin.
In the book of Genesis we read that God cursed Adam and Eve , then he forgave them and helped them, (still keeping them out of Eden). After Adam and Eve partook of the forbidden fruit we read,
The LORD God said ... To the woman ..., "I will greatly multiply your pain in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children, yet your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you." And to Adam he said, "Because you have listened to the voice of your wife, and have eaten of the tree of which I commanded you, 'You shall not eat of it,' cursed is the ground because of you; in toil you shall eat of it all the days of your life; thorns and thistles it shall bring forth to you; and you shall eat the plants of the field. In the sweat of your face you shall eat bread till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; you are dust, and to dust you shall return." ... Gen 3:14-20
But no sooner do we read God’s curse of humanity and of his announcing to them that death would be one of the consequences of their sin, than we read God is caring for these very creatures who he just punished.
And the LORD God made for Adam and for his wife garments of skins, and clothed them. Gen 3:21
Gomer: Punished and Forgiven
The Book of Hosea contains a story that is representative of God’s relationship with Israel. God has his prophet Hosea marry a harlot in order to have a living example on the earth of his relationship with Israel. (Israel too has been unfaithful to God). When Hosea learns of Gomer’s adultery he both punishes and forgives Gomer. He tells her there will be consequences for her sin and then announces that he plans to woo her back into a right relationship with him. Hosea says to Gomer...
Therefore I will take back my grain in its time, and my wine in its season; and I will take away my wool and my flax, which were to cover her nakedness. Now I will uncover her lewdness in the sight of her lovers, and no one shall rescue her out of my hand. And I will put an end to all her mirth, her feasts, her new moons, her Sabbaths, and all her appointed feasts. And I will lay waste her vines and her fig trees, of which she said, 'These are my hire, which my lovers have given me.' I will make them a forest, and the beasts of the field shall devour them. And I will punish her for the feast days of the Baals when she burned incense to them and decked herself with her ring and jewelry, and went after her lovers, and forgot me, says the LORD. (Hosea 2:9-13 )
Then after pronouncing the preceding consequences Hosea says regarding Gomer...
(Hosea 2:14-15 ) "Therefore, behold, I will allure her, and bring her into the wilderness, and speak tenderly to her. And there I will give her her vineyards, and make the Valley of Achor a door of hope. And there she shall answer as in the days of her youth, as at the time when she came out of the land of Egypt.
The Bible clearly illustrates that just because God forgives someone, it doesn’t mean there is no punishment for their actions. A person can be both forgiven and punished at the same time, as any parent knows who lovingly disciplines a child.
There is a coexisting biblical relationship between forgiveness and punishment or consequence. From a biblical perspective, with forgiveness sometimes there is punishment, and sometimes there is not. It depends on the circumstances.
Many of the sound bites we hear through the media are quite unsound. Where can we find sound sound bites? Where can we find phrases that lend clarity to the scandal we hear of on Capitol Hill? Ironically, we can find this information in the Bible, the very same book that President Clinton was seen holding recently on his way into church.
The conclusion of this article will be therefore, a number of sound biblical verses which are applicable to the current crisis. And remember, just as hearing a full quote in context can put a ‘sound bite’ into better perspective, so too reading a full chapter from the Bible can put a particular verse into fuller perspective as well.
(Mat 5:34) ...Do not swear at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, or by the earth, for it is his footstool, or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. ...Let what you say be simply 'Yes' or 'No'; anything more than this comes from evil.
(Prov 12:19 ) Truthful lips endure for ever, but a lying tongue is but for a moment.
(Eph 4:25 ) ... let every one speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another.
The futility of concealment
(Luke 12:2 ) Nothing is covered up that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known. Therefore whatever you have said in the dark shall be heard in the light, and what you have whispered in private rooms shall be proclaimed upon the housetops.
The Call to Inner Purity
(Luke 11:39 ) And the Lord said to him, "Now you Pharisees cleanse the outside of the cup and of the dish, but inside you are full of extortion and wickedness. You fools! Did not he who made the outside make the inside also?
Regarding Condemning the Man Rather than just the Sin
(Luke 6:37 ) "Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven;