Forgive and Forget?

All of America is reading the shocking Starr Report, and as you might guess, my phone's been ringing off the hook. Naturally, the press want comparisons to Watergate. But Christians are asking questions as well. Do we forgive? Is it right for Christians to urge impeachment? Isn't that a political question? The first question is easy: I'll take the president at his word in his statement of repentance at his prayer meeting Friday. God forgives, and so should we. The second question is more complicated: Several Christians, including some pastors, have argued that God has raised up both righteous and unrighteous leaders for his people, Israel. They believe that in the modern era, as well, we should accept our leaders. After all, Jesus didn't advocate rebellion. And the Apostle Paul said obey your rulers. Well these Christians' ideas miss the great political changes brought about during the Protestant Reformation. The reformers had a great phrase: Coram Deo, meaning “we live in God’s presence,” literally “in His face.” So man no longer has to deal with God through the church or through the king. Instead, God deals with man directly. The state, therefore, has limited authority over man. A corollary was the principle of Lex Rex—the “Law is King.” It means that every single person is subject to the rule of law—the ruler and ruled alike. These two doctrines made western democracy as we know it today possible. Our rulers rule with the consent of the governed and are subject to the same laws we all are. The rule of law is the heart of a free society. So Christians have no business avoiding their political responsibility. In western democracies we vote for our leaders. And as Christians we should do so using godly wisdom. And the same principle would hold true for impeachment, a political process. Impeachment, remember, is essential to preserving the rule of law because under our Constitution, a sitting president cannot be indicted for crimes. So the only way to make him subject to the law, and preserve the rule of law, is through the impeachment process. This is why Christians have every right, indeed, a moral duty, to express their views on this subject. We are entrusted with preserving the rule of law, which is a product of our Christian tradition. Now, the president said Friday that he wanted to be forgiven and to get on with the job of government. Is that appropriate? As most of you know, I've had some personal experience with this. Twenty-five years ago, I became a Christian in the midst of the Watergate scandal. I asked forgiveness for my sins, and I knew God forgave me. But I also knew I had to pay the consequences for breaking the law. I pled guilty—and went to prison. I hope and pray President Clinton is genuinely repentant, and that he'll be restored to his family, and that Americans will forgive. But that doesn't mean he's entitled to avoid the consequences of his sin. If the law has been broken, justice demands a penalty be paid. Congress therefore must do its duty, and decide if the facts warrant impeachment. There's much more involved here than a salacious sex scandal. What hangs in the balance are the two most important principles undergirding our free society. Limited government and the rule of law. No man is above it. These are profoundly Christian principles. Yes, we'd better care—and care deeply.


Chuck Colson



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