Donald Trump is not a man who is often at a loss for words. His exchanges with political leaders, religious leaders, and home leaders come charged with the heavily defined vocabulary of a second grader. In fact, his arguments mirror the mindset of our culture where the winner of an argument is not determined by logic and reason, but by name calling. Trump’s recent exchange with Russell Moore, something that has been months in the making, not only affirms Moore’s points, but also affirms two concerns that true evangelicals have.
First, I must offer a disclaimer. Generally, not always, I try to avoid political discussions that are not confined to the walls of my own house or those of my closest confidants. My focus is transformation of lives by the Word of God, not the transformation of ideologies by argument. Thus, I have found it more profitable to avoid discussions like this that have the propensity to divide at the mere mention of a few terms with little discussion.
So why address such a topic now, especially when it has been addressed by a number of conservative Christian leaders with profound points? Because God gifts people differently, one person’s explanation may resonate better with a certain group, while another person’s may reach a different group. My hope is to add value to the discussion by addressing two major points of concern.
An Evangelical Lifestyle
The first is a lament over the loss of the term evangelical. In the last century Christians have had to change descriptive terms several times (fundamental, conservative, evangelical) not because they are redefining themselves, but because society is trying to redefine Christians. Evangelical is only the latest in a string of terms that we have lost control of. There are some who would say, “Wait, give it some time and maybe we can recover it!” I hope they are right, but I am of the mindset the control of the term no longer belongs to true evangelical Christians, but to an ever-changing culture.
The constant need to find another term suggests a pattern, a pattern deserving of attention. An examination reveals our inability to set ourselves apart from the culture. Those claiming to be evangelicals have not lived in such a way that the term offers up a description backed up by a lifestyle. Instead, anyone and everyone can lay hold of it and claim to be part of a group because it comes with certain advantages, distinctness, or whatever it may be.
Evangelicals were not meant to be a label placed on a certain group of people to be won over for a political vote. Evangelicals are to be Christians. Even the term Christians is meant to convey something powerful. The word means ‘little Christs.’ The concept is that we life a Christlike lifestyle displayed for those around us so that they will desire to call upon the Lord as well. It conveys a lifestyle of commitment to God that is predicated upon the foundation of His truth.
A Discerning Lifestyle
An evangelical lifestyle brings with another noteworthy attribute that should play out in our lives: discernment. There is a great need in every aspect of our lives to be discerning, this includes our decisions within the political realm. The events of this year’s political cycle have proven not only the necessity for discernment, but demonstrates how little importance is placed upon it.
Discernment requires both knowledge and wisdom. From Proverbs, we learn that both are the product of fearing the Lord (Proverbs 1:7; 9:10). The point being, in order to be truly wise (and thus accurately applying knowledge) one must be a Christian, with a fear (reverence) for the Lord.
Every action, every activity must be done from the standpoint of a Christian worldview. To be evangelical is to be discerning with Christ as our lens with which we view and analyze everything around us. Even our political choices must be defined by this notion, because it goes without saying, what is the point of believing something without acting upon those beliefs.
Therefore, if we are going to call ourselves evangelicals, we must then live that out by being discerning about the choices we make in this political process. Using the disagreement between Moore and Trump as an example we use discernment to look at their use of logic and reasoning, reputation, character trait, beliefs and lifestyle, etc. Measured against God’s Word, a look at each of these would speak volumes about both men that should lead to conclusions based on a truly evangelical worldview.
Evangelical is not a title, it is a lifestyle. It is a lifestyle that is dictated by God and thus that lifestyle maintains certain standards that will impact every part of our being. To claim belief in God is to then act in accordance with the character of God. Set yourselves apart from the culture by living out what you believe.