Christians have a lot to keep in mind when considering a candidate.
“Let each citizen remember at the moment he is offering his vote that he is not making a present or a compliment to please an individual–or at least that he ought not so to do; but that he is executing one of the most solemn trusts in human society for which he is accountable to God and his country,“ said Samuel Adams, signer of the Declaration of Independence and one of the most famous American founding fathers.
Adams’s sobering words should be a reminder that voting is not to be taken casually; it is a duty for which man will be accountable to God Himself. Yet voting remains a struggle for Christians around the world.
The question that faces believing voters most often is who in the world is “more” Christian? The lesser-of-the-two-evils answer is cliché at this point, and is a gross oversimplification of how and why Christ wants us to select leaders.
Before beginning this search with the author – and it most definitely is a search, not a series of answers – consider this carefully: Christians in politics will all too often become overtly attached to certain politicians, flawed though they might be; they will be loyal to the bitter end, even as scandals pop up or a better candidate appears. Civic duty is only one (a small) facet of the Christian life, and God is the ultimate leader of this world, no matter who is running for Congress or who controls the White House.
Once a voter has found his candidate, he should also be willing to give that candidate up. Admitting mistakes and repenting is the same in politics as it is in other aspects of life, and just like elsewhere, it is sometimes Biblically necessary to turn from a philosophy or a movement.
Despite the fact that many denominations, Christians, and church leaders debate the Biblical advisability of voting at all, once the question of whether to vote or to abstain from civic activities is decided – the correct answer is usually the former option, very rarely the latter – there is yet a more complicated question for Believers: who would Jesus vote for? Which party deserves the Christian vote? Is there a set “Biblical” political school of thought?
Most of all, how is the chaff separated from the wheat in politics – how is a candidate to be chosen?
The Wise Man vs. the Fool
The Bible lays out a clear picture of what a leader looks like, even from the very beginning – even in Genesis, the threads of a leadership theme can be traced (and should be traced).
Proverbs 1:7 says that “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge: but fools despise wisdom and instruction.”
“The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God. Corrupt are they, and have done abominable iniquity: there is none that doeth good,” says Psalm 53:1.
The distinction between God-fearing and God-mocking is an important difference to search for in a political race; it is the difference between a wise man and a fool, a strong leader and a narcissist politician.
A leader, most of all, should fear God and try to serve Him – a true Christian leader will not keep faith a deep, dark secret or a casual title. If he does, with very few exceptions he is either too scared to defend it or not serious enough about God to mention it to the people he truly respects – his political superiors and the voters he woos.
Proverbs has much to say about the attributes of a wise man, and the New Testament mentions much about the fruits of the Spirit; these are the best measures of human character at a human’s disposal and should be used as such.
“Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law. And they that are Christs’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts.” – Galatians 5:19-24
The Bible mentions more than once that wisdom is more than head knowledge or education, and rather it begins with the fear of the Lord.
“And unto man he said, Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom; and to depart from evil is understanding.” — Job 28:28
“Happy is the man that findeth wisdom, and the man that getteth understanding. For the merchandise of it is better than the merchandise of silver, and the gain thereof than fine gold.” – Proverbs 3:13-14
“Wisdom strengtheneth the wise more than ten mighty men which are in the city.” – Ecclesiastes 7:19
Having a wise man in office can be a better advantage to a nation than having natural resources, a growing population, a strong economy, or a powerful military – for wisdom isn’t circumstantial, or brought by luck. It has no boom and bust cycle. It is a gift from God to those who ask for it and fear Him.
The blatant contrasts between the wise and the foolish are mentioned throughout scripture: the fool mocks sin, but the righteous are wise and have favor before God (Pro. 14:9); the wise cease from strife, but fools stir it up again (Pro. 20:3); fools trust merely in their own abilities, but the wise seek council and search for God (Pro. 28:26); the fool despises instruction, but the wise are eager to learn and are willing to admit mistakes (Pro. 15:5); the fool gossips and slanders, while the wise cling to the truth (Pro. 10:18). Most of all, the fool says there is no God.
Candidates that choose to lie and slander are not candidates to be trusted nor respected; men that refuse council and believe in no higher power than themselves are likewise to be avoided.
Look carefully for the wise man and the fool, search diligently for evidence of the works of the flesh and the fruits of the Spirit. This is the first key to choosing a Christian candidate.
Biblical Leaders and Their Attributes
Strong, righteous leaders mentioned in the Bible share many common traits: humility, a willingness to repent, a search for wise mentors and wise council, courage to stand up for God and His principles, and a desire to learn and improve.
A Godly leader is brave enough to act alone, but wise enough to seek council; willing to assert power when needed, but humble enough to know his bounds.
Humility is an essential aspect of an effective leader, and it is seen in Moses, Gideon, and King David, for just a few examples.
“Come now therefore, and I will send thee unto Pharaoh, that thou mayest bring forth my people the children of Israel out of Egypt. And Moses said unto God, Who am I, that I should go unto Pharaoh, and that I should bring forth the children of Israel out of Egypt?” – Exodus 3:11
“And the Lord looked upon him, and said, Go, in this thy might, and thou shalt save Israel from the hand of the Midianites: have not I sent thee? And he [Gideon] said unto Him, Oh my Lord, wherewith shall I save Israel? Behold, my family is poor in Manasseh, and I am the least in my father’s house.” – Judges 6:15
“And David said unto Saul, Who am I? and what is my life, or my father’s family in Israel, that I should be son in law to the king?” – 1 Samuel 18:18
Moses had an anger problem, and David was a murderer and adulterer – it points us to another important part of leadership: repentance. Humans always make mistakes in this life, and leaders are no exception. What differentiates a righteous man and a lesser one is not whether they fail, but how they respond and repent of this failure.
Wise leaders seek wise council; they always look for a wise mentor. Look for pointers as to their role models, the people they trust, the people they want to become, and the people whom they ask for advice. Proverbs 27:17 speaks of how iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens the other. It’s important to identify the peers of a candidate.
Who has endorsed the candidate? Trusted organizations that line up with Christian ideals, or radically anti-God movements? Individuals themselves who you know either mock God or fear Him?
A true leader is also willing to stand up to evil, no matter if it is in high places and no matter how lowly the aforementioned leader may be.
Nathan reproved David for his affair with Bathsheba (2 Sam 12:7); Elijah and Micaiah fought Ahab (1 Kings 21:17-29; 22:13); Daniel opposed King Belshazzar and told him to repent (Daniel 5:22); John the Baptist correct Herod (Matthew 14:4); Peter and John stood up to the Sanhedrin (Acts 4:17-20); Stephen, even as he was about to be martyred, opposed the Council (Acts 7:51).
True leaders might not hold a governmental position; they may merely oppose the evil they see in rulers. Biblical leaders have shown that being courageous enough to oppose evil is the mark of a righteous man.
When examining a candidate, look at his record – if he has never before lifted a finger to fight the problems he claims to want to eradicate in office, it is unlikely he means a word he says. Who he is when he is a common man is who he will be in office (except he’ll have an office).
The Example of Church Leaders
While the Bible has nothing specifically addressing the proper characteristics of a governmental leader, it gives a solid picture of what church leaders must live up to.
1 Timothy 3 is perhaps the best example.
“A bishop [or any leader] then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behaviour, given to hospitality, apt to teach; Not given to wine, no striker, not greedy of filthy lucre, but patient, not a brawler, not covetous; One that ruleth well his own house, having his children in subjection with all gravity; (For if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?) Not a novice, lest being lifted up with pride he fall into the condemnation of the devil. Moreover he must have a good report of them which are without; lest he fall into reproach and the snare of the devil.
Likewise must the deacons be grave, not doubletongued, not given to much wine, not guilty of filthy lucre … Even so must their wives be grave, not slanderers, sober, faithful in all things. Let the deacons be the husbands of one wife, ruling their children and their own houses well.”
This chapter emphasizes the importance of an upright personal life in church leaders, something that is nearly equally important in rulers.
Leaders have a calling – maybe not a blatant summons to government leadership, with an audible voice from God or a clap of thunder, but at least a tug on their hearts that God has a plan for their life and leading is part of it.
Abraham (Gen. 12:1), Moses (Ex. 3:10), Gideon (Judges 6:14), Elisha (1 K. 19:19); Isaiah (Is. 6:8), and Paul (Acts 26:16) are all examples of God calling a person into a leadership role, or to do something for His kingdom.
Identifying the candidate with a calling seems like a foggy method, but it’s a method nonetheless, one to be used when others fail to find the difference.
The words and deeds, the professed motivation of a politician may be calculated and staged, but to some extent it’s possible to see through the façade.
How do wisdom, the fruits of the Spirit, excellent mentors, wise council, reliable companions, repentance, courage, and calling show up in the real world? How are they identified? In fact, what do they look like?
The application of Biblical principles to real-life problems like government debt, decaying roads, a terrorist attack, a drought, or gun control seems so much harder than applying them to, say, abortion, euthanasia, gay marriage, or religious freedom.
Yet there are applications nonetheless, and wise leaders will see them and demonstrate the correct positions on these issues. They may not line up with scripture entirely, but righteous men will at least seek to do right – and when they discover they are wrong, they will repent.
Looking at the qualities of a good leader may make it appear as if finding a decent politician is the hardest and most impossible thing mankind has done since putting a man on the moon – yet it should be noted that the moon landing was successful, and occasionally elections can turn out right too.
It’s impossible to list all of the “important” issues in an article, but a few of the most widespread and prominent controversies affecting the Christian faith in the United States can be mentioned.
One of the most tragic issues of our day is abortion, and Christians should be firmly against it – God certainly is. (Psalm 22:10-11; 127:3; 139: 13,15; Genesis 1:27; Exodus 20:13; Deuteronomy 5:17) Jeremiah 1:5 offers a glimpse of God’s view of life, “Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee, and I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations.” God created man in His image – and He forbad murder because of this.
It’s also a delicate political issue that has hurt many people around the world, which is why calloused remarks about it do much, much more harm than good. If you’re faced with a decision to choose between a fiscally Biblical candidate and a socially Biblical candidate, choose the latter.
Gay marriage is possibly the most controversial issue of our time. Protests hit the streets, lawsuits are everywhere, and scarcely a day goes by without some significant news on the issue reaching the headlines – yet whether or no you believe government should ban it, God is against it. The movement is definitely not about “acceptance” or “tolerance,” it’s about demanding not even that a lifestyle should be accepted, but that it should be praised and catered to. (Jude 1:7; Romans 1:27; 1 Cor. 6:9)
What about fiscal issues? Social welfare? Taxes? Understanding what God wants for His creation is the way to achieve it, and reading the Bible is the best way to know that for sure.
Here is a short list of things to consider when you choose a candidate:
1. Where do they stand on the issues? How willing are they to defend their position?
2. What is their record? What is in their past – if it’s bad, do they justify it or have they repented of it?
3. Who are their supporters, both individuals and organizations? Do you agree with these endorsers?
4. What is their personal life like? Are they Christians themselves, and are they morally upright? How do they live up to the Biblical qualifications?
5. How are they compared to the other candidate?
6. Are they strong leaders? Have they had any experience before?
Delving into the basic requirements for a leader may have introduced more questions than answers. You know you’re supposed to find a humble man who keeps good company, wants to learn, has a teachable spirit, and respects life (among many other things) but keep in mind there is more, so much more. The only source with all the answers is God Himself (and the instructions He sent in his Word); that’s the best place to look, and always will be.