Columnists > Soul Food

Dear Gordon

An open letter to a spiritual counselor of the president

Issue: "Who's marching now?," Oct. 17, 1998

Dear Gordon: I am heartened to know that you are among those who will offer counsel and accountability to the president. I respect the integrity with which you handled your personal crisis and am thankful for your restoration to useful ministry. I am praying that God will use you, an evangelical, as an instrument of God's grace in the life of Mr. Clinton.

I hope you will not be offended if I am so bold as to offer a few words of advice:

-Remember that the president is a Southerner. There are some interesting things to note about us Southerners. One is that many of us suffer from the "Elvis syndrome," by which I mean the ability to stand around the piano at Graceland and sing gospel songs with tears in our eyes, then to go upstairs to fornicate, and persuade ourselves in the morning that our real person is the hymn-singing one.

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We have to confront the truth that the real person is not the sentimental one but the sinful one. The other thing to note about us is that we grew up in a culture that holds a peculiar perversion of the fifth point of Calvinism. The doctrine that God preserves his people so that they persevere in faith became "once saved always saved," which in turn became "once you've walked the aisle, you're saved no matter what." This gives a false security that we can live like hell and still go to heaven.

-Teach the president that, while forgiveness is free, grace is expensive. In the present moral crisis we evangelicals must remain evangelical-refusing the Jewish idea that we can atone for our sins and the Roman Catholic one that we make up for our sins through acts of penance. Forgiveness is free, granted immediately and completely to those who confess their sins and claim Christ. But the grace that provides the forgiveness has an infinite cost-the humiliation and death of the Son of God.

One of the most stunning statements the New Testament makes is, "God made him who had no sin to be sin for us" (2 Corinthians 5:21). It may be indelicate, but it is true to say that, if the president is forgiven, it is because Christ became guilty of the president's secret sex with Monica and accepted the penalty for those sordid sins. It is this that brings home to us the horror of our sin and the price of our forgiveness. And when we believe it, it produces in us a profound and life-changing gratitude.

-Inform the president that there may be temporal consequences for forgiven sin. You faced these yourself when you resigned your post of ministry, made yourself accountable to others, and waited for God to restore you to service. David, though his transgressions were forgiven and his sins covered, still experienced the God-sent chastisement of family conflict that came to climax when his son Absalom, to whom he had shown love and mercy, turned against him and ran David off the throne and out of the capital city. The priests followed David with the ark, but David sent them back to Jerusalem saying, "If I find favor in the Lord's eyes, he will bring me back.... But if he says, 'I am not pleased with you,' then I am ready; let him do to me whatever seems good to him" (2 Samuel 15:25-26).

When an old enemy taunted David and one of his men offered to kill the tormenter, David restrained him: "Leave him alone; let him curse, for the Lord has told him to" (2 Samuel 16:11). God ultimately restored David to the throne, but David submitted to the discipline, put himself in God's hands, and waited to see what the Lord would do.

-Help the president understand that repentance should be "more rather than less, sooner rather than later." If the president is sincere, he needs to face all his salaciousness and make apologies to the women he has misused and discarded.

If his repentance is genuine, he will see that he can no longer court the favor and approve the acts of homosexuals. If his conscience is awakened, he will no longer boast of preserving the right to have a near full-term baby pulled feet first from its mother's womb before having its skull punctured and its brain sucked out. May all evangelicals put aside partisan politics and pray, "God save the president of the United States."

William H. Smith
William H. Smith

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