Forgiveness and fitness to hold office are distinct issues. My question is: Should this forgiven president resign? Would there be moral, social, and international benefit in his voluntary resignation? I make my judgments from a position rooted in the word of God, and therefore I believe they have widespread application even to those who have not taken their stand on this position of allegiance to God's word revealed in the Bible, since he has written his law in great degree on all human hearts (Romans 2:15). Here are some of the reasons why I believe the president is unfit to hold our highest elected office and why I think it would be good for the country and the world if he were to resign. The president has broken the sacred and essential covenant of marriage. It is sacred because, as his own Christian profession maintains, it is ordained by God as inviolable and reflects the covenant-keeping faithfulness of God. It is essential because a society where infidelity is treated as minor will not hold together. Keeping commitments is at the heart of our social fabric. It will rend and unravel where failure to keep covenants (or contracts) is not despised. Yet the president has done all that language can do to distract from how despicable his covenant-breaking has been. The president has shown callous disregard for the public humiliation of his wife, child, and trusting associates, as he not only deceived them but also used them to join him in defending his deception. This kind of self-serving indifference to the pain and shame of others is so base that any attempt to create respect for the office of president while such a person is holding the office will have a deleterious effect on the nation by inevitably lowering the standards of respect to the point where it is indistinguishable from disrespect. The president defiled a woman young enough to be his daughter. The youth of Monica Lewinsky does not constitute the evil, but exacerbates it. The evil is in the fact that to express his own immoral desires he needed to involve another person in the same immoral indulgence. Thus the evil is compounded as the president of the United States welcomes a young woman into the complicity of secret immoral behavior and abuses his power in the process. The length of the sexual involvement with Miss Lewinsky, as well as other sexual immoralities the president has confessed to, show his bad judgment and lack of self-control and willingness to take reckless risks for nothing more than personal gratification. These do not constitute the lapse of a one-night stand in a life of stability and virtue, but are evidence of a long and deep pattern of failed judgment, immoral inclinations, and disregard for numerous sacred commitments both public and private. The message the president has sent to all young men is this: "If you can get away with it, it's okay to do it, and if the potential harmful consequences for tens of millions of people don't matter in my case, how much less do the little consequences matter in your case." The president has not taken any of the remarkable opportunities offered to him to speak to the young people of our nation about the evil and folly of such behavior and to call on them, as their leader, to be chaste and to honor women by treating them as persons rather than sexual stimulators. In his behavior and public response to being caught, he has portrayed immorality and deception as irrelevant to worthy leadership. He communicates that we should let him go about his business as if there is no serious damage to a nation by doing so. This is a message that will hurt our youth, especially, and our nation as a whole. Every level of leadership is corrupted by this example, and the standards of character and fitness are lowered. Leadership of the visibility and power and influence of the presidency calls for a kind of statesmanship and honor and trustworthiness and discipline and loyalty that a nation is inspired by. The president has lied and deceived and distorted truth repeatedly over the years and in these recent months has blatantly looked us in the eye and said that he was not involved sexually with Miss Lewinsky and under oath has said that he could not remember being alone with her. These lies and this manifest manipulation of language to evade truth are so unworthy of public trust that it is scarcely imaginable that any man could serve in an office of trust after such blatant public dishonesty and corruption of language. Almost everything the president said in his TV "confession" was calculated to present himself as a strong and noble person. He did not express contrition, brokenness, or shame at his actions. Rather, he stoically defended the legal accuracy of his prevarications and affirmed (as if it were a noble thing) that he was responsible for his actions. There is a great difference between saying with tears, "I have acted for long periods of time recklessly, selfishly, crudely, immorally and irresponsibly," and saying with force and fixed jaw, "I take responsibility for my actions." Mainly in his confession the president expressed anger at the intrusion of legal agents into his private life. Thus he attempted to shift our sense of indignation off himself and onto the prosecutor. This is a tried and worn strategy of people trapped in an immorality that they are forced to acknowledge, but for which they do not feel deep contrition. It is the mark of a character that is not just deceiving, but is built of deceit. The president has treated the precious gift of words in such a way as to deflate its currency to the point where language itself has become the object of distrust and scorn. This is incredibly damaging to a culture. If leaders communicate that words exist to be manipulated for the sake of evasion and personal gratification, the effect on the discourse of the land will be devastating as more and more people scoff at even the possibility of noble uses of language for truth-telling. The president has brought reproach upon the honor of the office of President of the United States and seriously damaged the esteem of our land in the eyes of the world. And he has done this at a time when the moral high ground in world affairs is of extraordinary importance for world peace. It is outrageous that in a time when millions of Muslim people around the world regard America's role among the nations as the purveyor of moral filth, our president should be secretly cheating on his wife and having some sort of sex in the White House with a woman young enough to be his daughter. This gross and reckless and faithless behavior unfits a man to be a world leader in this moral context. The president, for his own fleeting personal gratification, has heightened the stakes of violence and war in an atmosphere of international hatred of America by giving other nations not imaginary, but real reason to regard us as a debauched people whose highest leaders are philanderers whom we as a people do not have the moral fiber to remove. This image of America will, in the minds of many adversaries, add moral warrant to any violent intentions they may have against us. The president should have known that the stakes of his moral life are this high, and added that to his disincentive to gratify himself at the expense of the nation.
The article and accompanying sidebar are adapted from Mr. Piper's sermon on Aug. 26, at Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis, where he serves as pastor. Mr. Piper is the author of several books, including Desiring God.