Are you happy with the choice we have to elect the next president on Tuesday, November 8, 2016? Do the candidates reflect what you had hoped for in the candidates?
In the nation’s attempt to elect a new president, it is clear that the overarching characteristics we hope for in president are twofold: competence and character. Regarding competence, it is natural to look for evidence in a candidate’s history of past performance. Experience counts especially the kind of experience that matches the demands of the President’s job description. On the other hand, character weighs in calculating the acceptability of a candidate. Rarely do candidates run for office with a history void of flaws and mistakes (sin). Often the voting public exercises a level of common grace in response to the shortfalls in character for both candidates, mistakes that the media inevitably uncovers and makes public.
For many authentic Christians, competence matters, but character matters equally if not more. By authentic I mean Christians who are repentant about their sin, regenerated (born again), reconciled, and in continual state of obedient faith and restoration by the Holy Spirit to the likeness of Christ. This is in contrast to nominal Christians who John Wesley called “practical atheists,” who get to church from time to time, but live the same life as most others living with indifference to sin. For authentic Christians, character ultimately means progress in living in ways that are pleasing to God and living in holiness of heart and life. Authentic Christians look for evidence that a candidate’s life reflects a history of character, and hopefully of growth in grace and the likeness of Christ. Many would say that this sets the bar too high, but does it really? In putting forth a candidate in the primaries, and in knowing how power corrupts, should not both parties set the bar high for the highest elected position of power in the land and possibly in the world?
Could we hope that political parties would embrace such a standard of character in the future? Does that sound impossible? While it is not impossible, it is highly improbable in a nation that is realistically described now as in a “Post-Christian” era. But is it an essential standard for authentic Christians. The answer must be yes. Can authentic Christians be the leven in the bread that lifts the bar and sets a higher standard, one that acknowledges that candidates will not be perfect in skill and abilities, understanding, knowledge, or health, but that they will be candidates with observable love for God and for all others, mature in faith, hope, and charity; that they will be grounded in humility and understand that as a nation we are not sufficient in ourselves to solve our problems or to achieve our hopes and desires; to understand that without the Spirit of God, we can do nothing. Such humility is a right judgment of self by a president, an awareness of one’s sinfulness and helplessness, and of human nature, that such judgment extends beyond self to the appreciation of the sad state of the culture. Such a leader functioning at the level of the nation’s president implies humility and lack of hubris and disregards honor of self because he or she knows him/herself. Such an individual neither desires nor values the applause he or she knows they don’t deserve. It implies a profound love for God and all others and that all honor and glory goes to God who is able to raise up servants to do his good pleasure for the nation and the world.
It is not too soon to begin praying for the primary process of both parties that begins three years from now when the nation is back in the primary process of choosing candidates for the 2020 presidential election. But pray too, that in the next four years, the God of forgiveness, reconciliation, restoration, and holy character will shape the clay of the next President’s life who is soon be elected on the second Tuesday of November, 2016.