By Bill Mefford
I have not made a big deal of what I doing during the time of Lent simply because there has been so much that has been happening from yet another shooting in Parkland, FL and the amazing response by the students to yet even more amazing young people - DACA recipients who are fighting for their their right to citizenship. And of course, Congress has done nothing on either.
But I pledged during Lent to daily pray for the salvation of donald trump. Thus far I have done so. It hasn't been a very difficult pledge to keep. You know how people tell you to pray for people you have conflict with because as you pray for them the Holy Spirit often softens your heart towards them and you can wind up having a deeper love and affection for them? Yeah, I can safely say that hasn't happened for me yet, though I have been faithful to pray for his salvation. With the harm trump continues to create for people, especially people of color, I do not expect a softening of the heart. anytime soon
But I am open.
My prayers thus far have been simple and straight-forward. Something along the lines of, "Lord I pray for the salvation of donald trump, that he might encounter your love, turn from his wicked ways, and be saved in every part of his life." I am not the most eloquent person of prayer. And, sadly for trump, I am not known for prayers that change the world. My prayers are kind of like my faith: fairly simple and straight to the point. But I actually do believe in prayer as a method of social and personal transformation. I truly do want to see donald trump saved and transformed primarily because of the impact it could have on people beind forced to suffer under the inhumane policies of this government.
Of course, many supposed evangelical leaders claim he is already saved. People like James Dobson, Franklin Graham, and Tony Perkins have all made the claim he has prayed the prayer of salvation and accepted Jesus as his personal savior. I wish it was that easy.
But it ain't.
I remember as a young, fresh-out-of-college youth pastor preparing for a Bible study for my youth group in a small West Texas town. My knowledge of Scripture, even as a leader in the church, was not all that extensive (not sure it is now either), so I did a word study of every time "personal savior" was used in Scripture. I remember being stunned when I found it was never used. I had heard it used so often in the evangelical circles that had discipled me that I was stunned that it had no biblical reference. It sure did sound like Scripture.
Slowly, over the years, salvation ceased for me to be a one time trip to the altar, with a light piano faintly playing "Just As I Am" in the background as I confess all my personal sins, and then ask Jesus into my heart and leave with a good feeling, never having to worry ever again about my eternal destination. Yeah, that's kids' stuff. Literally.
Salvation has increasingly come to mean a complete transformation of all of my attitudes, my actions, and especially my allegiances. Salvation is all about moving from a "me focus" to an "other focus." My good works cannot earn for me the grace I need to live a life worthy of God, so I must look to the love and forgiveness and grace of Jesus and his Spirit to live in and through me. Thus, I am no longer held captive to striving after protecting myself, serving myself, indulging myself, or especially promoting myself; I am free to give myself for others with no thought for my own needs or desires.
Salvation is liberation from me.
The best story for this model and understanding of salvation is actually found in every gospel account: the story of the Rich Young Ruler. This is the story of the wealthy young ruler who comes to Jesus because, even though he has kept every commandment all his life, he still lacks something. Jesus unbelievably tells him to go, sell all of his possessions, give to the poor, and then come and follow him. This is stunning for so many reasons, primarily of which, Jesus places following himself the last thing the wealthy young ruler should do.
The first thing is to go away. It makes me laugh every time I read it. "Go away," he says, "sell everything you have and initiate relationship with the poor because the thing you lack - even more than intimacy with me, the incarnation of God among humankind, is relationship with the poor. Initiate relationship with the poor, and THEN, come and follow me. Focus on them before you focus on your relationship with God. THAT is what is meant to be saved."
There is no greater biblical model of salvation for the middle and upper classes in the United States than the rich young ruler, yet, I can count on one hand how many times I have heard this preached in US churches. And one of those times the preacher - a District Superintendent who went on to be a United Methodist bishop no less - claimed this passage had little to do with money and more to do with living a life of prayer. Right, pull my other leg and it'll play Jingle Bells.
For a lot of reasons - one of which has to be because this biblical story hits far to close to home - we in the United States do not like the rich young ruler as a model for salvation/liberation. But it should be our model.
And to be frank, it is the primary image that comes to mind when I pray sincerely for donald trump to be saved.
And so now I would like to ask you to join me, at least during this time of Lent, let us pray for our brother donald trump, that he will respond more faithfully than the actual rich young ruler in Scripture. The ruler was so overwhelmed by Jesus' charge to him that he walked away saddened, though still rich and powerful. I pray trump will not walk away from Jesus, but will encounter Jesus in sch a powerful way that he will freely give up his focus on himself, on protecting himself, serving himself, indulging himself, and especially promoting himself, and that he will initiate sincere and genuine relationship with the poor and most vulnerable - most of whom he oppresses and persecutes every day - and THEN, he will come and follow Jesus.
I pray for donald trump's salvation.
Let the Kingdom come, amen.