Donald Trump swore. This may not come as much surprise. But what I have in mind is inauguration day, when he swore the presidential oath.
A long line of presidents have recited those words, and almost all of them took that oath with their hand on a Bible (or two).
Why the Bible? The use of this book is not required. Why not swear on the Constitution itself? Both John Quincy Adams and Franklin Pierce had this idea when they placed their hands on a book of U. S. law.
For some presidents-elect, no doubt, the use of a Bible has been little more than symbolic, a nod toward American tradition.
But for others, swearing by the Bible meant something more. They understood that they spoke their oath before the almighty God, who put them in this office and could easily remove them again.
This is why Bibles were so often used in courtrooms, to impress on those testifying that they would have to answer to God if they lied under oath.
Symbolic or not, I think this practice honors the intention of our country’s founders. They did not prescribe or outlaw any one holy book or religion. But they did establish the basic functions of American government using biblical principles.
The Creator God was understood as the Lord over all, including government. The Ten Commandments were accepted as His unchanging will. And a system of checks and balances was put in place because of a realistic view of human nature.
It is not a perfect government, but it is a good one. And it will remain a shining example to the world as long as America’s citizens recognize their place as created beings of an all-powerful and merciful God.
But this is not the way we humans naturally think. We do not like to see ourselves as beneath or subservient to anyone. We want to make our own rules and determine our own course. We want to be free in every way.
Except that we are not free. By nature, we are enslaved to sin.
The Apostle Paul said to Titus, “For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another” (Titus 3:3).
“Hated by others and hating one another” – doesn’t that sound something like what we have witnessed in our country these last weeks and months?
As a people, we seem to have forgotten how to speak kindly with one another, how to admit when we have taken things too far, and how to forgive one another. There’s no way around it – we are sinners.
But God our Creator has done something about our sin. He sent His only Son Jesus to keep His holy law in our place, and to suffer and die for all our wrongs. Jesus Himself testified that “God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him” (John 3:17).
No other religion in the world teaches anything like this, that the perfect God saves sinners by grace alone. This is the central message of Christianity. And Christianity is taught in only one book:
Pastor Peter Faugstad