How to Select a President

One week until Election 2012.  In 7 days, we will know who is going to be our President for the next 4 years.  As a country, we face a spiraling economy, a rising debt, threats to national security, among a host of other severe challenges.  We’re sadly mistaken if we think the political divisiveness and brokenness is going to end.  The U.S. desperately needs solutions that are way beyond the reach and influence of Washington DC.  I believe it will take a sovereign move of God to bring about true, lasting change, not just because certain laws are passed or not passed.  And contrary to popular belief, problems will not be solved simply because a candidate is a “Christian” or is a moral and upright person.

Being a Christ follower doesn’t automatically qualify someone for public office.  Christians have been known to make MAJOR mistakes throughout history.  In 1932, German Christians praised God for the rise of Adolph Hitler because he promised a return to national dignity and economic prosperity.  Americans used Scripture to justify racist policies.  Even with the greatest devotional lives and perfect Sunday School attendance, Christians can make unwise and stupid decisions.  Often they fall into the trap of party allegiance, polling data, and misguided Biblical interpretations.  We’ve even seen in the lives of many who openly declare their faith fall miserably short of the principles they espouse.

According to Article II of the Constitution, the President is responsible for executing federal laws among various duties like appointing judges and diplomats and overseeing the military.  This will not win me any friends, but being the moralist-in-chief isn’t part of his job description.  There are so many things that need to be considered when choosing who to vote for.  It has to be someone qualified to get the job done in the midst of chaos and a pluralistic society.  The problem again is when Christians depend on government to do what the Church is called to do .  Let’s say my car needs to be fixed and I have the choice of an atheist and a Christian mechanic but the atheist is the better of the two…I’m picking the atheist.

Does the candidate…
Demonstrate Character?  No cameras, no reporters, who is he when no one is looking? “So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be strong in character and ready for anything” (James 1:4).  Is he there to serve the people?  Is she real, authentic?  Is she a person of integrity?  Unfortunately, many times, a leader’s true character isn’t revealed until they’re out of office.  “Character is like a tree and reputation like its shadow. The shadow is what we think of it; the tree is the real thing“ Abraham Lincoln.

Possess Courage?  The inhabitant of the Oval Office will have to make swift and grave decisions that require strength and calm, cool reasoning.“Be strong and courageous, for you will lead my people to possess all the land I swore to give their ancestors.  Be strong and very courageous. Obey all the laws Moses gave you. Do not turn away from them, and you will be successful in everything you do” (Joshua 1:6-7).  Is she willing to do what’s right even when it’s unpopular?  The wrong decision can impact the whole nation, possibly the world.  It was the fortitude that Abraham Lincoln needed during the Civil War, Franklin Delano Roosevelt during the Depression and facing the attack on Pearl Harbor, and multiple presidents in taking a firm stand against communism.  “There is, in addition to a courage with which men die, a courage by which men must live” John F. Kennedy. 

Live by Conviction?  Does he live according to his beliefs?  “O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to save us from it, and he will rescue us from your hand, O king. But even if he does not, we want you to know, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up” (Daniel 3:16-18). Being a person of conviction allows you to respect the person you see in the mirror.  We need people of principle who can do more than just get elected by making a lot of promises and give good speeches. “Always vote for principle, though you may vote alone, and you may cherish the sweetest reflection that your vote is never lost” – John Quincy Adams.  Vote for the person you believe has the qualities to decide wisely where policies, precedent and ideologies won’t help.

Seek Counsel? “Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed” (Prov. 15:22).  It’s difficult to admit we don’t know it all.  Wise advice is absolutely necessary, particularly after a grueling election and she has to start working the moment she takes the Oath of Office.  Not just any advisors but good, wise counsel, people of experience, education, and understanding.  “A man is known by the company he keeps, and also by the company from which he is kept out” Grover Cleveland.

Live for a Cause?  “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives” (Genesis 50:20).  He may deliver riveting, passionate speeches; he may have a big smile and sharp outfits, he might deliver great pyrotechnic displays and touching video introductions.  But what is he saying?  Is it of substance?  Or is it full of obfuscating, pandering,  and posturing?  Is she guided by something bigger than herself, her opinions, party platforms, and polling data?  “We grow great by dreams. All big men are dreamers” Woodrow Wilson.  She must be guided by principles and ideals that transform people’s lives and help them succeed.

Motivated by Compassion?  “A vast crowd was there as he stepped from the boat, and he had compassion on them because they were like sheep without a shepherd”  (Mark 6:34)Is he a guiding hope to help serve the people, raise a voice for the voiceless, and advocate for the underserved?  Is his empathy contagious, capable of launching an army of volunteers?  “We cannot build our own future without helping others to build theirs”  Bill Clinton.

Demonstrate a Christlike life?  I’m not saying the person has to follow Christ but does she demonstrate principles that the Bible describes?  I’ve seen a lot of Christians who aren’t Christlike and don’t live a life of surrender.  “But my life is worth nothing unless I use it for doing the work assigned me by the Lord Jesus – the work of telling others the Good News about God’s wonderful kindness and love” (Acts 20:24).  Every President I’ve seen in my lifetime has aged prematurely because of the job’s immense pressures.  The weight of delivering not just the first year but the first 100 days, being accompanied by dozens of Secret Service agents, relinquishing privacy, carrying nuclear launch codes, facing an opposition Congress and a bloodthirsty media, being spoofed on SNL, attacked by talk show hosts, and commanding the lives of our nation’s finest.  The Stock Market drops 10 points if she sneezes.  She is sworn to uphold the law and protect America, send aid to developing nations…all in 18 months before she has to start campaigning for re-election.  How on earth have occupiers of this office accomplished it without God?  “It is the duty of all Nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey his will, to be grateful for his benefits, and humbly to implore his protection and favors”  George Washington.  Is it a person who is humble, engaged with everyday people, not lost in the glory and allure of power, selfless, and ready to give all he’s got for the people he serves?

Being one of God’s people doesn’t guarantee good leadership.  And as far as I can see, God often uses people who are so far from serving Him but can still carry out His Will.  So next Tuesday, by all means, vote and try to get your candidate into office.  But on Wednesday, we need to perform the duties of our office.  And whoever gets sworn in on January 20, 2013, let’s respect and honor our President…and pray for him.

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