This is mid-term election day in the U.S. Everyone is encouraged to exercise their right to vote as a citizen of the country. This election, perhaps more than any in the past, has displayed such a great level of anger, and division among our people. Some weeks ago I used the illustration of the number of American flags that are displayed in our town, saying that must mean something in the basic values we hold together. We certainly have different opinions as to how things should be done, but can we deal with those differences as one people who can show a level of respect for all? At least for us who claim the name of Christ it must be so. Paul wrote to the Colossians, “Now you must also rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. Do not lie to each other,…”(3:8-9) We express our opinions as citizens of one country in the voting booth. Beyond that we are taught to be “subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established.”(Romans 13:1) Our primary citizenship is in God’s Kingdom, a Kingdom of peace. We are called to be ambassadors of that peace in our present world.
This is election season in the U.S., mid-terms for national offices, and many state and local offices as well. In our county there are campaign signs everywhere. People are seeking various positions and declaring that they are the best candidate. In the town where I grew up there was a business man who had made money in construction and now wanted a public office. It didn’t seem to matter what office it was he had his name in. He marched in every Fourth of July parade, and shook every hand possible. Fortunately, the people never saw fit to elect him for anything, but that never slowed him down. Our elections have become so much centered in self promotion, amounts of money raised, and convincing people that they alone can give them the good things they want. It seems to me that the founders of our republic desired leaders based on their character and wisdom that had been displayed in trials. In Romans 5 Paul speaks of those whose foundation is in faith in Christ, and who have displayed perseverance in trial resulting in a proven character. In other words, God’s training in the individuals life. Maybe we should look for more of these characteristics before listening to all the campaign promises.
We are in the midst of a local election campaign for county commissioner and other offices. The very nature of our political campaigns is self promotion. Each person declares who he is, why he is the best person for the job, and what he or she is going to accomplish for the community. I know it is necessary for our democratic system, but it is one of the reasons I’ve never liked politics. And politics has worked its way of working into the church as well. Paul wrote to the Corinthian Church, “It is not the one who commends himself who is approved, but the one whom the Lord commends.”(IIC.10:18) It is why the leaders we read about in the Bible were chosen with much prayer, and with God’s direction. Campaigns are already starting for national offices. In these we would also be wise to follow that same biblical practice of much prayer, and seeking God’s direction.
There has been a lot of publicity in the last couple of weeks about one of the presidential candidates off color and degrading comments about women. He has tried to justify it as “locker room talk”. Unfortunately it is not that easy to push aside. For all their lack of practice, Christian values are still called upon by public officials. Both candidates profess their Christian faith. We should be able to expect Christian values to govern their lives. The Apostle Paul wrote to the Ephesians, “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.”(4:19) Lewd comments, even off handed and off the record, should not be a part of one who professes Christ. Jesus went even further saying, “What comes out of a person is what defiles them. For it is from within, out of a person’s heart, that evil thoughts come–sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly.”(Mark 7:20-22) Course speech, lies, deception, justifications, and excuses have marked this election cycle more than any in recent memory. I have no advice, and I support no candidate, but, as Christians, we must be guided by the values of our faith, and seek to uphold those things that bring honor to our Lord.
Be careful what you ask for because you might get it. There was an instance with the people of Israel when they were coming out of Egypt that they grumbled against God. One of the many actually. They had been fed with manna for many days, but they wanted meat. They griped and complained until God finally said, “You shall eat, (meat) not one day, nor two days, nor five days, nor ten days, nor twenty days, but a whole month, until it comes out of your nostrils and becomes loathsome to you; because you have rejected the LORD who is among you…”(Numbers 11:19-20) I’m wondering if that, at least in part, is not what this current election cycle is all about. We certainly hear a lot of grumbling and complaining. We want this. We want that. This candidate or that candidate will give us what we want. But what we want should be guided by a deeper understanding of what God wants for us, and the direction He desires for life. That doesn’t come from waving a Bible in the air, but by knowing clearly what is between its covers. By losing that foundation we may really get what we are craving, but I don’t think it will be for our good.
We are deluged in this pre-election season with candidates seeking the U.S. presidency. If a candidate says anything about the Bible or their Christian faith they are told they must leave their faith conviction aside from their public speech and duties. If they say anything it is called “fear mongering”. At times, we have even heard candidates say that they will not let their faith interfere with their office. It is true that someone in public service is called to serve all the people, to act justly, and to uphold the laws of the land. But a Christian cannot separate their faith in Christ from task they do in the secular world. In fact, we are called to be the salt and light to the world. This doesn’t mean that we use the office to convert everyone else, but it does mean that we use all the virtues of Christ in sacrificial service to others. As the Lord leads we also use our voice to speak God’s truth as best we understand it. And if there is an irreconcilable conflict between the task and our conviction, it means obeying God rather than man. Even if this means resigning the office. The point is that true faith convictions cannot be separated from daily action. And I think this is true for all faiths.
Since we are in the midst of electioneering for the next 15 months to choose our next president it would be well to consider some wisdom from God’s word. In Deuteronomy 17 there is a very interesting set of instructions for kings, and I think we could say they are good for all rulers. They were told first to be of the people, and not a foreigner. He was not to acquire many horses for himself, not to return to Egypt, not to take many wives, not to acquire large amounts of silver and gold, and to read the book of God’s law each day. Let’s bring these symbols up into our modern context. We would say that a ruler must be one of us. That is, to understand us and our needs, not just a political agenda. He is not to seek great strength and power for himself – dare we say even forgetting political consideration for the next election in order to do what is right. He is not to return to the pagan ways of the world and its idolatry. To live by a standard of what pleases God and not what is politically correct. He is to be faithful to his marriage covenant. He is not to seek office for material gain, or prestige, or power. He is to be a servant of the people. And he is to read the Scriptures seeking God’s wisdom daily. It seems to me that these are good instructions for a leader in any age. But then I guess I’m expecting too much in our modern world. Even so, we might do well to consider these things as we look at those who are seeking office.
Well, our U.S. mid-term elections are over. Some people are very happy, other disappointed at the outcomes. Either way there is something really wrong with the process. This election is the most expensive mid-term in history. Hundreds of millions of dollars were spent in campaigns across the country. On one hand we could say that that much money was pumped into the economy, but could that money have been better spent elsewhere? We are also told that many votes were not so much for a candidate as they were against the President. Do the right people really get elected? What do we expect these new leaders to do? Certainly, they are facing major issues. Will they be able to change much? I don’t know, but I have my doubts. All of the above is about all I have to say on politics. I am decidedly not a political person. My hope is not in any candidate or system, and we are called to judge all things by God’s Word. Scripture tells us to pray for our leaders that we may live in peace. That is the primary function of government, to maintain peace and order. In that order we can preach the Gospel and share God’s love in word and action. We don’t know what the future holds. We are called to live each day in the guidance our Lord gives, and put all of our trust in Him.
In a large sense, it rally doesn’t matter who won last night’s presidential debate, or ultimately the election. We are set on a course that is not good. Toward the end of the time of the Old Testament Judges, the people came to Samuel asking him to “give us a king to lead us, such as all the other nations have.”(I Samuel 8:4) The Judges were God’s chose and anointed leaders. Asking for a king so they could be like all the other nations was wrong. God’s people were not to be like all the other nations. But God instructed Samuel to “Listen to all that the people are saying to you; it is not you they have rejected, but they have rejected me as their king.”(vs.7) America is not the new Israel, but the principles are the same. The more the Lord is rejected from being the center of the life of a people, the more their own foolish ways lead them in wrong and destructive paths. Regardless of what our electoral system does in expressing the will of the people, the Lord is our true hope. He remains King forever. “The LORD foils the plans of the nations; he thwarts the purposes of the peoples. But the plans of the LORD stand firm forever, the purposes of his heart through all generations.Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD…”(Psalm 33:10-12)