Now that some of the extreme vitriol following the election has begun to subside and I have had a chance to think about some of the commentary that came out of the event, I thought I would throw out my two cents on the matter. One of my favorite reads is Peggy Noonan, whose articles appear weekly in the Wall Street Journal. In a follow-up to the election, Peggy said:
“I think the people tended toward Mr. Bush because they saw him as a good American man, a man they knowan imperfect one with an imperfect past who turned his life around with grit and grace. Thats a very American story. Its one we all know, and respect. There are DemocratsChris Heinz was reportedly one, at the endwho amuse themselves referring to President Bush as a former cokehead. I dont know about that, but I know America went through the 1970s, and America is still in recovery. When nice people hear things like ‘former drunk’ they tend to put the internal emphasis on the word former.”
She echoes my own thoughts and I believe they are the thoughts of every Christian who has thought about their own redemption and sanctification. Christianity is predicated on the belief that people can change. Scripture argues that very point. Paul says in 2 Cor. 5:17
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!
Earlier in verse 7 Paul laid some of the responsibility for this transformation at the feet of his readers.
Get rid of the old yeast that you may be a new batch without yeastas you really are. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed.
And, those who have been changed from the old to the new, from a life of sin and dissipation to a life of bringing everything captive to Christ, are not ashamed to admit their former sinful ways. Paul says in 1 Timothy 1:16 and Philippians 3:4-11
But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his unlimited patience as an example for those who would believe on him and receive eternal life. (Timothy) [Emphasis added]
…though I myself have reasons for such confidence. If anyone else thinks he has reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for legalistic righteousness, faultless. But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ–the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith. I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead. (Philippians) [Emphasis added]
So, especially for Christians, we do not want to be solely defined by our failed past, but we want people to see the changes we have striven for in Christ Jesus, our Lord. We admit we are not perfect, that we still fall down, but like Paul we admit our failures and continue to move on.
Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.
Yes, I would call George Bush a “redeemed man.” He is not perfect, but neither am I. However, I believe that neither he nor I are the men we were ten or twenty years ago. We are better and we strive to continue that journey, as Peggy Noonan said, with grit and grace, empowered by the love and forgiveness of God.