Competence and Integrity

How should Christians use the Bible in their political activity? I have called such moves tricky, and I have said that missteps can divert the world’s attention away from the Gospel. What’s a positive approach for Christian decision-making in the realm of politics?

When it comes to the United States, the political structure is such that, at least in terms of the federal government, we elect members to Congress who represent the various populations from which they come and a President who works to execute and protect the law and the Constitution. For the most part, we only vote on specific matters of policy at the state and local level (and mostly at the local level).

We elect our leaders who then draft legislation and decide on policy. When we send those leaders to D.C., we are entrusting them with a great responsibility. The Bible lays out a great standard by which to measure the men and women we nominate.

Take a look at 1 Peter 2:14. Politicians are to be about the business of punishing evil and praising those who do good. So, when we elect political leaders, we need to do our best to determine which person will remain committed to accomplishing that task.

A Christian voter should make such a decision based on the person’s character. A passage from 1 Timothy 3, in speaking about the leadership of the church, provides several elements that should be foundational to the character of our national leaders.

Since Paul here discusses ecclesial leadership, certain aspects of this description do not necessarily apply to our government officials, such as “holding to the mystery of the faith” (v. 9). The majority of the qualifications in that passage can be readily expected of politicians, for they center on character, not their religion.

For example, we ought to vote for leaders who are “above reproach…self-controlled, sensible, respectable, hospitable…not addicted to wine, not a bully but gentle, not quarrelsome, not greedy” (v. 2-3). Even the verse that describes how the church leader should be an excellent manager at home points to the principle that we ought to vote for people who have demonstrated their competence during their previous positions (whether in government or the private sector).

This passage from 1 Timothy provides plenty of insight as to what character traits Christians should look for in a candidate. In making that decision and in discussing with others how to make that decision, Christians can easily point to matters of competence and personal integrity. We should be under no obligation to worry about a candidate’s faith or absence of faith, and we are to pray for our leaders regardless.

Of course, no leader measures up perfectly to the qualifications found in 1 Timothy 3, even those in the church. When our national leaders fail to meet the standard, we as Christians must seek wisdom through prayer and study (both of Scripture and of candidates’ histories) in order to decide for whom we are to vote.

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