We’re hearing from Christians recently that if you vote for Donald Trump, you are “guilty by association,” that the Christian right is stained by the sins of Trump and will never be free from it, and that any who support him have soiled their Christian witness in the church and before the world.
I find this kind of talk appalling. I have, since the very start of this election season when Trump first burst onto the scene and his supporters were called stupid, godless, immoral, and unhinged. This stigmatizing of Trump supporters—particularly those who are Christians—began even before the sex tape was released.
My purpose here is not to defend Trump or his behaviors. Neither do I intend to defend Christians who are supporting him. I’ve already done that. My purpose is to address the false narrative that Christians who support Trump are guilty by their “association” with him and have, therefore, sacrificed their reputations on the altar of politics.
I want to address this because it is a serious allegation. It accuses Christians who are voting for a secular leader of being stained by his sins of sexual immorality, and possibly abuse, arrogance, greed, and vainglory—all by association. The list could go on when dealing with a character like Trump.
So, are Christians who support him “guilty by association”? No, and anyone who accuses them of that is blaspheming his brothers and sisters in Christ.
Let’s begin by looking at how the Bible addresses “associating with sinners,” because it does indeed forbid such a thing. Associating with deeply immoral sinners not only tempts one to engage in their sins, but it does, in fact, soil one’s reputation.
There are a number of verses dealing with this:
“Do not be deceived: ‘Bad company corrupts good morals’” (1 Cor. 15:33)
“He who walks with wise men will be wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm” (Prov. 13:20)
“I do not sit with deceitful men, nor will I go with pretenders. I hate the assembly of evildoers, and I will not sit with the wicked” (Psalm 26:4-5)
“Do not associate with a man given to anger; or go with a hot-tempered man, or you will learn his ways and find a snare for yourself” (Prov. 22:24-25)
In all of these instances—as well as others throughout Scripture—associating with the sinner is not a distant relationship, but an intimate one. The word “associate” in the ancient texts connotes companionship, closeness, and friendship.
These verses have nothing to do with who you do business with, work for, interact with at school, or vote for in politics. In fact, Paul addresses this very point in 1 Corinthians 5 when he says the following regarding unrepentant sinners in the church, particularly those under church discipline:
I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people—not at all meaning the people of this world who are immoral, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters. In that case you would have to leave this world.
But now I am writing to you that you must not associate with anyone who claims to be a brother or sister but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or slanderer, a drunkard or swindler. Do not even eat with such people.
What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? God will judge those outside. “Expel the wicked person from among you.”
It’s interesting that Paul assumes you’ll associate with immoral people in the world, but the kind of “associating” Paul forbids here is intimate association with a Christian who has been disciplined by the church.
It has nothing to do with voting for a political leader or any other “worldly” interaction. Trump, who claims to be a Christian, hasn’t been disciplined by any church, and even if he were, voters aren’t spending intimate time with him. They are not his companions and, therefore, are not “associating with him.”
If the command not to associate with sinners applied to everyone in the world and every immoral person, even those who have loose claims to being a believer, Christians would be paralyzed in this world. You couldn’t shop at a store unless it were run by a person who wasn’t immoral in any way. You couldn’t watch television, go to the movies, buy clothes from certain designers, etc. You couldn’t have non-Christian friends. It is nonsensical to say that a Christian who votes for an immoral candidate or shops at a store run by pro-choice supporters or attends a school run by idolaters is guilty by association.
Paul clearly says if we were to avoid such people, we would have to leave this world. But we’re in it. We have choices to make. People vote for candidates for a variety of reasons. To accuse them of sin or being guilty by association when there is no such “association” is slander.
Of course, some might argue that the world will judge them as guilty by association whether it’s truthful or not. But Christians don’t live by how the world thinks. We want to maintain a good witness, but, as I’ve shown, voting is not the same as associating. If the world wants to falsely accuse Christians for decisions made in good faith and according to their own conscience, so let it. Our consciences are not bound by the world’s judgments, only by God’s.
Now, for those who are concerned about morals, principles, and what the world thinks about how Christians behave, let’s look at what the Bible has to say about bringing false accusations against your brothers and sisters in Christ—because that’s exactly what these “accusers” are doing. They’re bringing disrepute on the reputations of fellow Christians by accusing them of being a companion of Trump and aligning themselves with his sins.
Without realizing it, they are joining the groupthink of the Left and labeling fellow Christians and stigmatizing them. I don’t know why they’re doing it, maybe it’s simply because they disagree with their political choices or maybe they’re afraid of how the world will judge them. But the result is the same. They are shaming, defaming, and stigmatizing other believers.
To publish smears against another is nothing less than slander. Let’s look at some verses relating to this sin:
“You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor” (Ex. 10:16)
“Whoever slanders his neighbor secretly I will destroy” (Psalm 101:5)
“Whoever utters slander is a fool” (Psalm 10:18)
“Whoever goes about slandering reveals secrets; therefore do not associate with a simple babbler” (Prov. 20:19)
“You shall not spread a false report. You shall not join hands with a wicked man to be a malicious witness” (Ex. 23:1)
I could go on, but the verse I really want to sink in is from James 4:
“Brothers and sisters, do not slander one another. Anyone who speaks against a brother or sister or judges them speaks against the law and judges it. When you judge the law, you are not keeping it, but sitting in judgment on it. There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the one who is able to save and destroy. But you—who are you to judge your neighbor?”
Defamation of character is a serious crime. During our country’s founding, New York took defamation so seriously that those guilty of it were punished by having their tongues staked with a hot iron, and then they were banished from the state.
Slandering someone is an attack on their reputation—and sometimes that’s all a person has. This is why the Left loves to label and stigmatize—it ruins reputations and silences those who have been defamed. Label them a racist, they’ll be silenced because no one wants to associate with a racist. Accuse them of being a sexist, anything they say will be disregarded. Accuse the Christian right of being, in essence, sexually immoral because Donald Trump is sexually immoral, you silence them in the public square, discrediting them.
The irony is that those Christians today who are joining in the defamation of their brothers and sisters are only condemning themselves in the eyes of the world. Do you think the world, which is so quick to slander and stigmatize, will distinguish them from those who support Trump? No, they will all be lumped in together.
But perhaps they know this, which is why they are so driven by fear and passionately intent to declare, “I’m not like them, those sinners!” They don’t want to be “guilty by association” by being connected with Christian Trump supporters. But this only makes them look like Pharisees. The very act of defaming another to save your own reputation is a sin of the most repulsive nature.
God is concerned about what we think and say about other people even when we’re afraid. Proverbs says,
“These things does the Lord hate, these six things, yea seven are an abomination to Him; a proud look, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked imaginations, feet that are swift in running to mischief, a false witness that speaks lies and he that sows discord among brothers.”
One of the concerns all conservatives, all Christians, should have after this election is our ability to unify for the sake of having a voice in the public square and getting our country moving in the right direction. That won’t happen if Christians continue to falsely accuse other Christians. The divisions will grow deep and fester. Already, too many have ended personal relationships with people they once loved because they don’t want to join in their “public shame.”
This is a lie from the pit of hell, and the NeverTrump accusers are falling for it. Christians who vote for Trump, for whatever reason, are not guilty by association. They are not Trump’s friend, his companion, his confidante, his intimate. Even those who have campaigned with him don’t necessarily fall into the category of being guilty by association, no more than someone who works for and with a sexually immoral, corrupt person.
Of course, the closer someone is to the intimate, personal circle of friendship with the man, the more this association is something they should be concerned about. But to call millions of voters guilty of the sins of Trump is the vilest sort of slander I’ve seen in national politics and the church for some time.
Bitterness, slander, speaking ill of a brother—the Bible says these flow from a wicked heart. It also flows from a fearful heart. A heart more concerned about self-preservation than loving someone else.
Let’s not abandon our friends, family, neighbors, and fellow Christians out of fear and pride. Let love so dominate our treatment of one another that it shuts the mouths of those who want to silence the Christian community with shaming. If we’re concerned about how the world sees us, then let’s not join the wolves in ripping apart Jesus’ sheep. Let’s love one another and let that be the answer to all the world’s accusations.
It is the love we have for one another that will be our strongest testimony to the world—not how we vote, or not vote (John 13:35).