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Feb 21 2016

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It’s Not Donald Trump’s Mexican Wall that Should Make You Question His Christianity

He implied that he didn’t need to ask for forgiveness, saying that he just “tries to be good” instead. His claims that he’s a “good Christian”, as well, should provoke suspicion

It’s been a strange week for Donald Trump. After Pope Francis referenced his plan for a Mexican wall while stating that “a person who thinks only about building walls… is not Christian”, he’s had to do some careful praising. Many will be wondering what Christians like me think of the Pope-Trump controversy.

The irony of the Pope’s implied claim that Trump isn’t a Christian is that half of Protestant America will doubt whether the Pope is a Christian. It depends on how you define what a Christian is.

For some people, Christian means ‘being nice’. On that definition, Trump wouldn’t be called a Christian in most people’s eyes, it’s true.

And I think the Pope has a point. “A person who thinks only about building walls, wherever they may be, and not building bridges, is not Christian… this man is not a Christian if he has said things like that.” (Though, the Pope was careful to add that he didn’t hear what Trump said so would give him the ‘benefit of the doubt’).

Certainly, if you’re following Jesus’ commands to be a peacemaker, to love your enemies, and so on, it seems that Trump’s proposed Mexican wall would be in stark contrast to that.

However, it takes more than ‘being nice’ to be a Christian. For a start, ‘nice’ isn’t necessarily loving a person – sometimes the most loving thing to do is to not be ‘nice’.

Plus Jesus gave a lot of difficult commands to his followers that go beyond ‘nice’. Loving our enemies, giving all our possessions to the poor, never looking at someone with lust. So was he starting a religion that would be impossible to follow?

I don’t think the point is the degree to which you can claim to follow all of Jesus’ commands (good luck with that). To be a Christian, you need to ‘repent and believe’, and then some of those impossible commands become a little bit more possible through our relationship with God. That is the experience of many Christians I know – even some who were crack addicts or violent criminals.

A Christian isn’t someone who’s perfect, but it is someone who wants to change and seeks God for help.

On this basis, however, there’s room to question Donald Trump’s claim to have a ‘great relationship with God’. He implied that he doesn’t need to ask for forgiveness, then said: “I like to be good, I don’t like to ask for forgiveness. I don’t do a lot of things that are bad. I try to do nothing that is bad” and more recently, in response to Pope Francis’ comments, “I am a very good Christian.”

Now, to anyone who isn’t a Trump supporter, his belief that he doesn’t do bad things would seem quite delusional, as many people view the guy as racist, xenophobic and even dangerous.

But as a Christian it’s even more incredible. Jesus said to be perfect was to never get [unjustifiably] angry, critical, judgemental, lustful – to perfectly love everybody all the time. To be a Christian is to recognise that you’re not a ‘good person’ as Jesus defines it, and that therefore you need forgiveness.

A Christian’s self-esteem shouldn’t come from thinking we’re ‘good’ and don’t need to ask for forgiveness. It’s from knowing we’re loved. And when we realise the depth of God’s love for us, despite all the wrong and unloving things we’ve done in the past, then this begins to change us and gives us more love for other people for the future.

I don’t know the heart of Donald Trump, and neither does the Pope. I don’t know where he stands with God or what his real thoughts and feelings are. But I don’t think a person can have a ‘great relationship with God’ and at the same time think that he doesn’t do anything bad.

Even a nun giving her life to helping people in the slums will recognise her flaws and failures before God.

It’s the realisation that God loves us more than we can imagine, despite our failures, that is the ‘good news’ of the Gospel. So I’d immediately question anyone who says, “I’m a Christian because I’m a good person.”

But ultimately, the only person who knows who the real Christians are is God.

 

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