Bryan Fischer, writing for the American Family Association, pointed out that Evangelical voters in South Carolina, in choosing Donald Trump, voted for an “unrepentant serial adulterer.”
I would have had no comment on this, but a Trump supporter posted a comment on Facebook pointing out David was also an adulterer. This is perhaps the most tired and predictable defense of bad behavior in American politics. Whether it’s Bill Clinton, Newt Gingrich, or Donald Trump, supporters of candidates who have shown a lack of character through unfaithfulness point to King David as proof unfaithfulness doesn’t matter, that people should vote for their candidate because good leaders cheat on their wives.
It’s a gross misinterpretation and misuse of scripture. It minimizes and make light of sin. It is true that King David committed adultery. He repented, and it still ripped apart his family and his nation. This great failure in his life set about a course of events that would include an infant dying, one of his sons raping his daughter Tamar, his son Absalom murdering the rapist and starting a civil war, the rape of ten more innocent women in his court, and his son Absalom also dying, in battle at the end of the war.
The story of King David’s adultery is not how God kept David in power because David was an indispensably great leader who could not be removed because of his sin. It was about the faithfulness of God in the midst of our unfaithfulness. He had promised the Messiah would come through David’s lineage and David’s descendants would sit on the throne so long as they remained faithful to God.
There is no covenant between God and any American politician promising political power under any conditions. In addition, there are other problems with using the story of King David’s adultery as a justification for modern -day philandering political leaders. For example, 1 Samuel 11 tells us David ordered the murder of the husband of the woman he committed adultery with. Does that mean we should be considering Presidential candidates who sanctioned murder?
In addition, while many American politicos share David’s failing, few share David’s heart which was after God and was broken by his sin. David proclaimed in -Psalm 51:3,4, 10, 11 (ESV):
For I know my transgressions,
and my sin is ever before me.
Against you, you only, have I sinned
and done what is evil in your sight,
so that you may be justified in your words
and blameless in your judgment.
Create in me a clean heart, O God,
and renew a right spirit within me.
Cast me not away from your presence,
and take not your Holy Spirit from me.
Compare this to Donald Trump saying he’s not sure he ever has asked God for forgiveness. When it comes to correcting wrongs, “I don’t bring God into that picture,” the comparison to King David totally breaks down.
The question of character failings in political campaigns is a difficult one. We all sin and fall short of the Glory of God. A failing may be in a person’s past and have little to do with who they are today, or it may reflect it exactly. Voters have to make a thoughtful decision on whether they can trust leaders who have shown flawed character in the past. (Note trust is separate from forgiveness.) The constant attempts to introduce King David into these debates is a rhetorical red herring meant to cloud the issue.
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