This presidential campaign keeps bringing up God. I admire the candidates for discussing religion even though their primary interests lie elsewhere. Their comments give us a chance to ponder such ideas and clarify our own.
Pollster Frank Luntz asked a clarifying question of one candidate at the recent Iowa Family Leadership Summit. “Have you ever asked God for forgiveness?” The response meandered past “doing a better job,” and the “little wine” and “little cracker.” But the candidate would not say “yes.” Let’s ponder this exchange, politics aside.
Perhaps from lack of serious inquiry, people can be deceived by a caricature of Christianity and a question like Luntz’s can open the curtains a bit. A similar one is, “Have you ever done anything that needs God’s forgiveness?” The response indicates awareness of need or self-deception. “If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us” (1 Jn. 1:8). Christianity embraces the mercy of a powerful Forgiver, not the power of positive thinking. Being forgiven makes us forgivers: It is God that empowered Emanuel AME Church in Charleston to announce that it is willing to forgive that deranged shooter.
But Christianity is more than avoiding adjudication of our misdeeds. Our infractions reflect who we are, which is our deepest need for forgiveness and restoration. We are not just well-meaning supplicants that take a little cracker and wine with a positive thinking sermon to fix us. We are enemies that need reconciling to God, captives that need freedom, the dead that need new life (Rom. 5:10, 8:2, Col. 2:13). By faith we are in Christ, holy, and blameless (Eph. 1:4). We are forgiven once and for all for what we were!
How is this possible? It turns on a question Jesus posed: “Who do you say that I am?” Only if He is God the Son can he be all that we celebrate in the elements of communion, which is neither “little” nor trite. God gave the Son to the world so that by faith we might inherit eternity (Jn. 3:16). Jesus was in a unique position to offer a perfect sacrifice for sin, and forgiveness for all who believe.
The self-examined life asks, “Am I forgiven?” To affirm is to believe that “He saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost which he shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior” (Tit. 3:5-6). An unforgiven life regenerated yearns to display its new, forgiven identity in Christ. Actions reveal the heart.
So, if any of this is new to you, you can thank the presidential campaign that we had this chat. You can also join me in praying that our next President is a forgiven one.