I had the privilege of interviewing Rick Warren today, the best-selling author of The Purpose-Driven Life and the world-famous evangelical pastor.
We came out to his congregation, Saddleback Church, in Lake Forrest , Calif., in preparation for his candidate forum this Saturday evening, featuring Sens. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Barack Obama, D-Illinois.
Part of our conversation aired on Good Morning America Friday. You can watch the segment below.
Most of of our conversation revolved around the candidates and the forum, but I asked him some other questions as well.
One of them went as follows.
TAPPER: As a political observer and a Christian leader you must have had a personal response to the revelations about John Edwards’ personal life when he admitted he cheated on his wife. What do you think in a time like that? When you hear John Edwards tell Bob Woodruff that he’s right with his wife and he’s right with Jesus and he’s moved on, does that resonate with you or do you think, “That’s not enough, John?”
WARREN: You know, Jake there’s a difference is between forgiveness and trust. And I don’t think people understood this even as far back as, say, the Clinton scandals and things like that. The Bible teaches us that forgiveness must be instant and that we are to forgive people instantly when they sin because of three reasons: first, we’ve been forgiven by God; second, resentment makes you miserable; and third you’re going to need more forgiveness in the future.
“Forgive us our debts as we forgive those who’ve trespassed against us.” So forgiveness has to be immediate but trust has to be rebuilt. Forgiveness is by grace. Trust is by works. And so if a woman’s husband is beating her and he comes back to the door and says, “Will, you forgive me?” She has to forgive him. “Yes, I forgive you.” “Will you let me back into the house?” “No, that’s another matter.”
You have to earn that trust. All leadership is built on trust. It’s built on credibility. If you don’t have credibility, if you don’t have authenticity, if you don’t have trust, you’re not a leader even if you have the title. And the moment you lose the trust of the American public you’re no longer the leader. You may still have the title but you’re not it. It takes years to build trust and you can lose it instantly — and it takes even longer to rebuild.
John Edwards and others like him have lost the trust of America because they lied, and fundamentally beneath every affair it’s dishonesty, its deceit, its deception. They’re lying to God. They’re lying to themselves. They’re lying to their wives and they’re lying to the public. How do you trust someone who’s constantly lying? You can’t. That’s why it is a myth to say their personal life doesn’t matter. It does matter — all of leadership is built on credibility.
TAPPER: Would you have compunctions about voting for someone who had cheated on his wife?
WARREN: Absolutely I would. Absolutely I would. Because if you can’t keep your faith to your most sacred vow – “’til death do us part” — how in the world can I trust you to lead my family? My government? My nation?…Absolutely I would. I think people first need to ask forgiveness and then earn trust back over time Can trust be re-earned? Absolutely but it takes time.