In a speech last week to the National Prayer Breakfast, President Obama reaffirmed his faith in Jesus Christ and explained that he could not leave his religious values and morals "at the door" when it comes to his work as President.
The President was eloquent in testifying to his own use of prayer, his devotional practices, and his desire to see his Christian values inform the workings of American government: "I must try - imperfectly, but I must try - to make sure those values motivate me as one leader of this great nation."
Indeed, he must, as must we all.
The President defended the role of government in maintaining fairness and justice in the marketplace and in standing up against evils elsewhere in the world, such as atrocities and human trafficking. Certainly he was correct in this as well. He insisted that he believes "in God's command to 'love thy neighbor as thyself'" and explained that this required him, for example, to "give something up as someone who's been extraordinarily blessed, and give up some of the tax breaks I enjoy..."
In this as well the President was spot on.
But it's one thing to be right in principle and wrong in practice. And if we use sound principles to wrong applications, we're simply wrong, and that's that.
Mr. Obama, for example, confessed that we must "answer the responsibility we're given in Proverbs to 'Speak up for those who cannot speak up for themselves...'" yet he continues to encourage the practice of abortion, selecting abortion-friendly justices for the Supreme Court and requiring even certain religious institutions to provide morning-after abortion services through their health care plans.
He affirmed the Scripture's teaching requiring "much from those who have been given so much" but wrongly assumes that the duty of government is to enforce practices which he obeys as a matter of individual moral responsibility. Nowhere does the Word of God make government the arbiter and enforcer of economic equality.
The President believes that people should work, and so does the Word of God. But Mr. Obama thinks government should solve the problem of "how we best put people back to work", yet there is no support for such an idea in Scripture.
Readers of this space will know that for some time we have been seeking confirmation of Mr. Obama's faith in Christ. I am content to let his words to the National Prayer Breakfast stand for themselves. Reflecting on the aftermath of a visit with Billy Graham, the President said, "I thought about my own spiritual journey - growing up in a household that wasn't particularly religious; going through my own period of doubt and confusion; finding Christ when I wasn't even looking for him so many years ago; possessing so many shortcomings that have been overcome by the simple grace of God."
The President confesses to being a follower of Christ and earnest in his desire to "help bring His kingdom to Earth."
But the President, a brother in Christ, is wrong in fixing mandates and moral directives aimed at individuals onto the shoulders of civil government. He himself understands and obeys those mandates; it is not his duty to enlist government to compel others to follow his example.
We acknowledge the President as a fellow-believer and honor him as our nation's highest elected official.
But we urge him, since he wants to shape government to reflect the teaching of Scripture, to examine more carefully and comprehensively the teaching of God's Word concerning the role of government, the duties of individuals, and the proper place of faith and the believing community in working for neighbor-love.
The President is correct in affirming, "The Bible teaches us to 'be doers of the word and not merely hearers.' We're required to have a living, breathing, active faith in our own lives. And each of us is called on to give something of ourselves for the betterment of others - and to live the truth of our faith not just with words, but with deeds."
But he is wrong in making civil government, rather than the government of God's Spirit, the active agent in achieving a just and loving nation.
Thus, for all his sincere faith and right principle, the President, in important aspects of his view of government, is still simply wrong.
Related texts: Psalm 72; Romans 13:1-5; 2 Corinthians 3.12-18
A conversation starter: "Do you think that President Obama is correct in the way he is seeking to establish the Kingdom of God on earth as it is in heaven?"