The Abandonment of Trust

President Clinton’s sordid behavior in the Lewinsky scandal has left many Christians in a quandary about the relevance of forgiveness in the political arena. We have been assured by Donald Shriver, author of An Ethic for our Enemies: Forgiveness in Politics, that the country should now be willing to forgive the president. J. Philip Wogaman, pastor of Foundry United Methodist Church where the Clintons attend and a distinguished authority in Christian ethics, contends that talk of political penalties is unbiblical: "King David did something that was much worse than anything that President Clinton is alleged to have done. And King David, if I read my Bible correctly, was not impeached."

So what ever happened to honor? This term belongs to an important complex of biblical ideas concerning public respect and recognition. Honor is achieved through the maintenance of integrity (Proverbs 8:1-21), speaking the truth without dissimulation: "Let what you say be simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything more than this comes from evil" (Matthew 5:37). Honorable persons defend the dignity of the weak (2 Corinthians 11:28-29), overlooking personal advantage for the sake of the larger community (Judges 5). The honorable are recognized as righteous as well as wise (Proverbs 5-6); they respect the community’s sense of decency (Philippians 4:8-9). When the community sets its trust in a leader who conforms to these standards, that person is said to be "honorable." There is a particular stress throughout the Bible on honoring parents, marital partners, and political leaders, with frequent advice about how such figures should behave so as to warrant being honored. The admonition in Romans 13:7 concerning respect for the government is particularly clear on the matter of warrant: Believers are to give "honor to whom honor is due."

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Sojourners Magazine November-December 1998
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