The Process of Selecting a Presidential Candidate

Last week I began to talk to you about how to vote for president. Not who to vote for but how to vote for president. What’s the intentional process that a follower of Jesus Christ should go through in order to make a decision about this aspect of citizenship?

We talked last week out of Exodus 18 about how we need to examine the platforms of each major candidate for president. A platform is a vision of their preferred future for the country. It’s a great way to get a snapshot of what this candidate wants America to look like.

We also talked about using prayerful discernment. I called it voting by prayer.  That is, taking this process to the Lord so that we can act both in a clear conscience and with the permission of the Spirit of God to vote in a particular way.

The text also reminded us that we were to look at past performance. We have an unusual arrangement this year because we have an incumbent president with three and a half years of daily documented behavior. We see what this president has done while in office. We also have a candidate on the other side that has something like 47 years of service as a politician in Washington. So, there’s long track records here that we can examine to study past performance.
 Now let me read you the verses from Exodus 18 that we started with and I want to finish this week a description of this process. Remember this is Jethro, Moses’s father-in-law, who’s giving him advice about how to select leaders and where to appoint them so that Moses isn’t the solitary leader over a nation of two million Israelites. (17-20)

"What you're doing is not good," Moses' father-in-law said to him. "You will certainly wear out both yourself and these people who are with you, because the task is too heavy for you. You can't do it alone. Now listen to me; I will give you some advice, and God be with you. You be the one to represent the people before God and bring their cases to Him. Instruct them about the statutes and laws, and teach them the way to live and what they must do.

In other words, present the platform of what we believe and where we’re going. Then he said, (21) “But you should select from all the people able men.” Select. This prayerful, discerning, intentional process that brings God into the equation as we make a decision. He says select able men. That has to do with their past performance, their proven ability to lead.

But he goes on from there and this is what I want us to see in this session of Truth Currents. He says. (21) "But you should select from all the people able men, God-fearing, trustworthy, and hating dishonest profit. Place them over the people as commanders of thousands, hundreds, fifties, and tens."

He starts by saying, you should assess their character. Now, he gives us three characteristics that we should look for. He says, “find men who are God-fearing, trustworthy” and this version says “hating dishonest profit.” Some of the older translations say “hating bribes.” Let’s talk about this.
This statement, “God-fearing” points to a perceptible piety in the life of a presidential candidate. Now, a common objection against this expectation is that people say, “Well wait a minute. The United States has never allowed a religious test for a political office in this country.” That’s correct.
There’s a distinction between what I would call theological righteousness and political righteousness. Or maybe a better term would be civic virtue. Our founding fathers specifically didn’t want a religious test for political office that said, “You have to be a Christian and you have to be this kind of a Christian.” The thirteen colonies were coming together. They had varied state churches in different colonies. They had different priorities. Maryland was primarily a Catholic colony. Rhode Island was filled with dissenters. Pennsylvania was filled with Quakers. The background was such that they intentionally didn’t want to say, “You have to be a Christian of this kind.” But they did say you have to have some basic level of public piety or civic virtue.

In other words, when we talk in theological terms, we mean righteousness is about being saved, about being washed clean by the blood of Jesus Christ, about living a life of pursuing Jesus.

But in political terms, when we talk about civic virtue, we simply mean somebody that acknowledges that there is a God that they answer to. Not somebody that has to have a particular expression of a particular religion, but somebody that we can trust who understands that they are not God.

Civic Piety. It doesn’t mean moral perfection. But it does mean a basic standard of character that is necessary for political leadership.

Our problem is we live in a nation where our political system, our public square is often characterized by outright brazen lying. What this means is we need to do our best to try and avoid leaders who are known liars. It’s one thing when somebody does something wrong and they try and cover it up. What we’re talking about is avoiding those who are liars by nature.

Well, a nation cannot long survive if we can’t have some level of confidence that what we’re being told by our political leaders will be in fact what they carry out. The text says, “God fearing.” This sort basic level of acknowledging that God is real.

It is followed by the term trustworthy. Trustworthy means this person has to have proven dependability. Beside this sort of civic piety that is necessary, the word trustworthy basically means, “Does this person do consistently what he says he will do?” It describes somebody who can be trusted when they say something. Now, it’s easy for us to be cynical and say, “Well, you can’t trust a politician no matter what he says.” And yet, we’re looking at the standard that we’re to strive for. Who says what they’ll do and then does it? – versus – Who will say whatever they need to say, in front of whatever their audience happens to be in order to advance their political prospects?

God fearing, trustworthy. Public piety – a basic level of proven public dependability. But then also personal integrity. It says, “who hates dishonest gain.” It’s the third critical mark of someone who would be a leader in national politics. This trait is about integrity. It really reflects what the writer of Proverbs tells us when he says that a ruler who listens to lies will have an administration that is corrupt. (29:12)

In other words, it’s not only the ability for the President himself to have a hatred for dishonest gain, an aversion to corruption if you will. But it suggests that we pay attention to the people who surround these candidates to see what they look like. Are they corrupt? Do they have an aversion to corruption?

The phrase means “a person who hates dishonest gain or hates bribery.” A person that serves in political office for the specific purpose of enriching himself is a person who is not qualified to receive your vote or mine. This person that we hope will be in the White House is a person who always abhors even the thought of owing favors to unscrupulous donors because of the exchange of money.

One of the disturbing questions as an American citizen that has bothered me most of my life is this issue of how our politicians tend to go to Washington and leave after decades of “service” only to see that they are MUCH wealthier when leave Washington than when they were when they arrived.

Well, the salary of elected officials is public knowledge. How do you have the salary that we see our officials have, how do you serve for 20 years or 30 years or 40 years and leave Washington as a millionaire? I’m not sure all the details that can answer that kind of question. But I know that the Bible is suspicious of people that gain wealth through “public service.”

Well, we also need to assess their ability to do the job in practical ways. This text says once you find men who pass the character test, you should “Place them over the people as commanders of thousands, hundreds, fifties, and tens.” In other words, he says asses their ability to do the job and then put them in a place that’s appropriate for the skill set that they bring to the conversation.
The question can be simply put this way. Can this person do the job that he’s applying for? Moses was instructed to take his selections and assign them. Some over groups of a thousand. Some over groups of a hundred. Some over groups of fifty and some over groups of ten. He was trying to avoid what we’ve come to call in our day, the Peter Principle. It was named after Lawrence Peter, who published the concept in 1969. And the Peter Principle says that rather automatically promote people until they reach the level of their incompetence, that you shouldn’t have automatic advancement. You should select people to fit the jobs that their most qualified and capable to perform.

The reality is that not every politician in America is qualified for every political opening. There is no automatic advancement in America. You don’t get to be president just because you hang out in Washington for decades. There’s no shame in keeping political leaders at their level of competence. Jethro spoke wisely when he said match job assignments with recognizable and proven skill sets. We might say, even with mental capacity so that they serve in a place where they can be successful rather than a place where they just aspire to power.

So, how do we select a candidate in 2020?

In order to answer that question about who we vote for, we have to study the party platforms. We have to see what each party holds as their vision for the America of the future.

We have to consider vice-presidential selections and the choice of other counselors and political appointees. It tells you a great deal about a candidate by the people that he surrounds himself with.

We ponder the proposed choices that they will announce regarding the judges of this nation.  One of the things in scripture that irks God almost more than anything else are people who pervert justice. And He is rabidly against judges who judge unfairly. They put an inordinate burden on the poor, the needy and the oppressed. So, the vision of candidates for judges should be a major consideration in your thought process.

We ponder all of those things and then we fall on our knees and we seek the face of God.
There are really two approaches that I hear in evangelical circles in 2020 about this election. The first approach is what I call the Conscience Voter. This is the person who says, “I cannot in good conscience vote for candidate A. So, I’m not going to participate at all.” Well, I’ve already dealt with that. Non-participation is not an issue.

The other side of this equation besides the Conscience Voter is what I’ve called a Strategic Voter. A Strategic Voter says, “Well, since candidate A is the worst possible candidate in the history of the human race, I’m going to vote for candidate B.” Well, there’s no basis in scripture for voting for somebody who is incompetent or unacceptable by Biblical standards simply because you dislike the other guy more.

I understand those struggles. I really appreciated the writings of Randy Alcorn over recent years in the political realm. He helps me reframe this conversation. He suggests that we should quit using this language, “Well, I just have to vote for the lesser of two evils.”

Well, honestly speaking, unless Jesus Christ comes and runs for political office Himself, isn’t every election at every level, in a sense the lesser of two evils? Every politician is compromised by a sin nature. So, instead of a lesser of two evils, Randy Alcorn suggests that we talk in terms of the best available option. There are no perfect candidates, who meets the Biblical expectations, the ideal that we know we can’t achieve. But the ideal that is presented is what we want to hold our candidates up to.

I understand both the Conscience Voter and the Strategic Voter. In fact, I want to be both of those things. I cannot vote in a way that contradicts my conscience. I just can’t do it. But I do understand what’s at stake. And I want to make a strategic choice.

So those people who say, “Well, I just can’t participate.” I dealt with that last week. Non-participation is not an option. If you take the salt and put it back on the shelf back in the pantry, if you take light and you lock it away in a closet, all you’ve actually done is invited the enemy to have free run in our generation. We can’t do that.

With a projected 130 million voters going to the polls in November this year, it may seem like your lone vote really doesn’t matter in the overall scheme of things. But to a degree, my vote will shape my own soul.  And I will be accountable to God for only one vote in the whole country.
Therefore, I have to take my vote seriously.

I’m committed to studying the platforms, watching the selection of advisors and running mates, analyzing the words and the actions of the candidates and then going to the Lord in prayer to seek direction and permission to cast my vote.

If God gives me permission to vote for a particular candidate, then my conscience is clear. And because my conscience is clear, I’m obedient before God, I can vote. Some of us are more inclined to the conscience side of the debate. Some of us are more inclined to the strategic side of the debate.

Ultimately, you don’t need me to give you a choice for president. What you need is a process for discerning how to be a godly citizen even when citizenship is hard.
Remember this, God promises wisdom to those who ask.

This is TruthCurrents.
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