Yesterday was an historic day. For the first time in history, a former President of the United States was convicted of felony charges. A jury of his peers unanimously found Donald Trump guilty on thirty-four counts of falsifying business records.
The response was predictable, based on political party. To quote House Speaker Mike Johnson, “Today is a shameful day in American history. Democrats cheered as they convicted the leader of the opposing party on ridiculous charges, predicated on the testimony of a disbarred, convicted felon. This was a purely political exercise, not a legal one.” Democrats are cheering, Republicans are crying foul.
While I don’t identify myself as a Democrat, those who know me know that I’m not a supporter of Donald Trump. But I’m not cheering this morning. I’m just sad. Sad for our nation. Sad that we bear the shame of a former President being convicted of felony charges. Sad that this conviction will probably not end his political career. Remember Gary Hart? In 1967 the Miami Herald exposed his affair with Donna Rice aboard the aptly named yacht, the “Monkey Business,” ending the Senator’s presidential aspirations. Times have certainly changed. Having sex with a porn star (or a White House intern) does not disqualify someone from being president. Paying money to make stories that are harmful to a candidate’s chances of winning go away is normal politics. We no longer expect basic morality from our leaders, I lament this loss.
President Trump had this to say to reporters following the verdict: “This was a disgrace. This was a rigged trial by a conflicted judge who is corrupt. . . They know what happened here. I am a very innocent man.” This sounds exactly like so many Marines I worked with when I was serving as chaplain for the Brig at Marine Corps Base, Camp Lejune, NC. “I’m innocent. The trial was a sham. I’m not guilty—I’m a victim!”
As I reflect on these matters, I’m reminded of another national leader who was caught in an illicit affair. Rather than paying hush money and falsifying business records, this leader arranged to have the woman’s husband killed on the battlefield, a much worse offense. His name was King David, and the woman he had the affair with was Bathsheba. If you’re interested in the sordid details, you can find them in the Bible, in II Samuel 11-12. “The thing David had done displeased the Lord. (II Samuel 11:27). David was convicted, not by a jury of his peers, but by a direct ruling from the ultimate judge. He was informed of the verdict, not by the foreman of a jury, but by a prophet of the Lord.
David’s response was genuine and sincere. He was broken by what he had done. He writes of his brokenness in a poem that has served as a confession of wrongdoing ever since. We know this poem as Psalm 51:

Have mercy on me, O God,
    according to your unfailing love;
according to your great compassion
    blot out my transgressions.
Wash away all my iniquity
    and cleanse me from my sin.
For I know my transgressions,
    and my sin is always before me.
Against you, you only, have I sinned
    and done what is evil in your sight;
so you are right in your verdict
    and justified when you judge.

There are two ways to respond to a guilty verdict: denial or confession. I consider myself an Evangelical Christian. According to the teachings of Evangelical Christianity, defense and denial will get us nowhere. Sin must be repented of, confessed, and taken to the cross of Jesus, where it is forgiven. “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.  If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.  If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word is not in us.” (I John 1:8-10).

All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,” according to the Apostle Paul (Romans 1:23). There but for the grace of God stand I. I’m no better than Donald Trump. But unconfessed and unrepentant sin will continue to fester and cause major destruction. I’m not cheering today—I’m sad, lamenting for the nation I have served and that I love. May God have mercy on us all.