When the President is Compared to God, We Point to Christ
“President Trump is the greatest President for Jews and for Israel in the history of the world, not just America, he is the best President for Israel in the history of the world…and the Jewish people in Israel love him…like he’s the King of Israel. They love him like he is the second coming of God.”
Contrary to what some headlines might suggest, Trump didn’t claim to be the “King of Israel” or “the second coming of God.” But the reality isn’t much better. He accepted a compliment likening him to the Messiah, and then shared it with the world — apparently endorsing the sentiment.
“I Am the Chosen One”
Later that day while answering questions about the trade war with China, Trump said, “I am the chosen one,” gesturing toward the sky. (“Chosen one” is also the meaning of “Messiah.”) He later claimed he was joking, blaming “Fake News outlets” for accusing him of having a “Messiah complex.” It’s hardly funny to use messianic language in reference to oneself, however. And there’s no getting around the fact that he chose to deliver this “joke” shortly after the “king of Israel” and “second coming of God” tweets.
As American Christians, what are we to make of this? The Bible is full of examples of men who encountered claims that they were God, or gods. Let’s consider how they responded.
Misplaced Worship: Examples From the Bible
In John 1, we read about the ministry of John the Baptist. When he began baptizing people, some wondered whether he was the promised Messiah. They sent religious leaders to ask, “‘Who are you?’ He confessed, and did not deny, but confessed, ‘I am not the Christ.’” He went on to clarify, “I baptize with water, but among you stands one you do not know, even he who comes after me, the strap of whose sandal I am not worthy to untie.”
John not only refuted rumors that he might be the Christ, but also emphasized his own relative inadequacy.
Later in the New Testament, we read about Paul and Barnabas ministering in Lystra. After seeing a crippled man healed when Paul told him to stand, the people believed Paul and Barnabas were deities.
“Barnabas they called Zeus, and Paul, Hermes. ... And the priest of Zeus, whose temple was at the entrance to the city, brought oxen and garlands to the gates and wanted to offer sacrifices with the crowds. But when the apostles Barnabas and Paul heard of it, they tore their garments and rushed out into the crowd, crying out, ‘Men, why are you doing these things? We also are men, of nature with you, and we bring you good news, that you should turn from these vain things to a living God.”
Paul and Barnabas didn’t thank people for the sacrifices they attempted to offer them. They weren’t flattered at being called Zeus and Hermes. They were distraught, but used the opportunity for further evangelism.
In The Washington Post on Thursday, conservative evangelist Jay Lowder highlighted another example of a man whom people called God. He writes:
In the New Testament chapter of Acts 12, Herod was called “God.” Herod’s response? He took credit. The Lord’s response? He sent an angel to kill Herod.
Pointing to Jesus
Most of us will never find ourselves in the position of being mistaken for or likened to deity. But it’s worth asking ourselves: what if we were? Would we succumb to the flattery, and maybe even brag about it? Or would we follow the examples of John, Paul, and Barnabas, rejecting such misplaced praise and redirecting it to God?
Thankfully, we don’t have to wait until we personally are compared to God before helping to redirect misplaced praise. In fact, we can do that now, especially in light of the president’s recent comments.
Whether or not we support Trump politically, as Christians, our primary desire should be to see the world worship God — not our president. When someone compares our president to the Messiah, we should take the opportunity to point to the real one: Jesus Christ.