This election has been very challenging to me because we face two dilemmas:
First, the worldview represented on the left is one that threatens to strip our fundamental values and freedom from this country and plunge us into an era of oppression and suffering. I have spent time and lived in nations over which the dark canopy of oppression was pitched and I have seen how much suffering comes as the result at all levels: personally, spiritually, economically, and socially. People will suffer and die if the agenda of the left prevails in America.
Second, the moral influence of President Trump is a corrupting influence on the Church and it threatens to compromise our character and witness to this world. For the first time in my life I am witnessing mature Christians share content on their social media that embraces the bombastic, abrasive, cruel, and vulgar character traits exhibited in President Trump’s conduct. In other words, we’re not simply turning a blind eye to his moral deficiencies, we’re justifying, affirming, and embracing the very moral attributes that Scripture says over and over again are the object of God’s wrath and righteous indignation. Unfortunately, though understandably, the response from my unbelieving friends is a unanimous shrug as they write Christians off as “hypocrites” who cared about morality for President Clinton’s administration but not for President Trump’s.
Maybe the way that I’ve phrased one of the two dilemmas above makes you mad at me and you’re about to close my post or you are already writing a comment to give me a piece of your mind. Frankly, I understand those reactions because this election has been very trying for everyone, and many of us are politically overstimulated. But if you identify with either one of these dilemmas and are still trying to reason through “if” / “how” to vote in this election from a Biblical perspective, then you might find this post interesting because I’m going to share the the answers that I’ve found on my journey to finding answers that I am at peace with in my conscience.
This post is a follow-up to my previous post, where I articulated three principles that I have found helpful. I will combine those three principles from my previous post with the two additional principles that I’m going to explain in this post and summarize them at the bottom below.
I will also note that John Piper’s article entitled Policies, Persons, and Paths to Ruin was helpful to me in thinking through the question of character. I recommend taking a moment to read his article on this subject.
FIRST: Some Biblical Considerations About Character
The question of “character” and “morality” have troubled my conscience in this election. Too many Christians are saying that “character doesn’t matter”. This troubles me because Scripture soundly refutes this claim; on both a personal and civil level, God is very concerned with the morality because God is holy. To say otherwise posits an entirely different God than the one revealed to us by the apostles and prophets in Scripture.
So let’s first deal with this claim that “character doesn’t matter” for leaders.
Whatever we do about voting, Christians must never send the message that character is irrelevant because immorality is the object of God’s wrath and we must not be found to mislead people about the judgment of God:
2 Thessalonians 1:9 (CSB) — They will pay the penalty of eternal destruction from the Lord’s presence and from his glorious strength
God does not excuse pride in secular leaders:
Jeremiah 48:29–31, 42 (CSB) — 29 We have heard of Moab’s pride, great pride, indeed— his insolence, arrogance, pride, and haughty heart. 30 I know his outburst. This is the Lord’s declaration. It is empty. His boast is empty. 31 Therefore, I will wail over Moab. I will cry out for Moab, all of it; he will moan for the men of Kir-heres.42 Moab will be destroyed as a people because he has exalted himself against the Lord.
God’s standard changes for no one:
Galatians 5:19–21 (CSB) — 19 Now the works of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, moral impurity, promiscuity, 20 idolatry, sorcery, hatreds, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambitions, dissensions, factions,21 envy, drunkenness, carousing, and anything similar. I am warning you about these things—as I warned you before—that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.
God does care about what we approve of in others:
Isaiah 5:20 (CSB) — Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who substitute darkness for light and light for darkness, who substitute bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter.
Romans 1:32 (CSB) — Although they know God’s just sentence—that those who practice such things deserve to die—they not only do them, but even applaud others who practice them.
Immoral behavior spreads easily and leaders exercise tremendous influence on their people:
1 Corinthians 5:6 (CSB) — Your boasting is not good. Don’t you know that a little leaven leavens the whole batch of dough?
1 Corinthians 15:33 (CSB) — Do not be deceived: “Bad company corrupts good morals.”
1 Kings 14:16 (CSB) — He will give up Israel because of Jeroboam’s sins that he committed and caused Israel to commit.”
Christians are not free to justify, affirm, or embrace irreverent and boastful speech:
2 Timothy 2:16–17 (CSB) — 16 Avoid irreverent and empty speech, since those who engage in it will produce even more godlessness, 17 and their teaching will spread like gangrene. Hymenaeus and Philetus are among them.
Colossians 4:6 (CSB) — Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you should answer each person.
I urge circumspection as we take into consideration a leader’s influence in the Church and what impact he or she is having on Christians. We need to weigh carefully whether or not partnering with a leader will compromise our own character and/or our testimony to the world.
Whatever conclusion we ultimately reach about voting, saying “character doesn’t matter” is clearly not a Biblical answer. We need better answers than we have sometimes heard during this campaign season from the Church. We must strive to be consistent with the moral attributes of our own worldview or we risk losing our worldview altogether.
TWO More Biblical Principles
Here are two more key principles to think through this election from a Biblical perspective.
First, we are meant to pursue Kingdom interests above civil or social interests. We are facing tremendous tension between kingdom and social concerns. On the one hand, our witness as “salt” and “light” in this world is being threatened by compromise as many Christians are becoming entangled with the political interests of the world. On the other hand, alarm-bells are sounding as an aggressive and dangerous ideology threatens to revoke our freedoms and subject our country to the darkness of tyranny.
When we think through our priorities in political elections, we must hold the kingdom of God and his righteousness as our primary concern:
Matthew 6:33 (CSB) — But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be provided for you.
Therefore, we must remember that we are primarily called as witnesses of Christ and we must not compromise our Kingdom witness for civil or social concerns, no matter how weighty or serious they are. If we are forced to chose between losing our witness for Christ and losing our civil freedoms in this world, we must always give up our civil freedoms.
Second, we are responsible for what know (not what we don’t know) about the character and goals of the political partnerships that we form and how such partnerships affect our Christian witness to others.
We are increasingly facing more and more elections where there are no candidates who share our worldview or values, which can feel like it leaves us asking “if morality matters, then who can we vote for?”
These elections leave us asking ourselves many questions. Does someone have to live by our moral principles to earn our vote? Does this kind of thinking reduce our faith to mere moralism? In answering these questions we need to first establish that the reason morality matters to us as Christians is because God is holy and his people are called to be holy after him (Leviticus 11:44-45; 1st Peter 1:16). Our primary concern in partnering with secular interests pertains to what these interests will get us involved in and to what these interests will do to our witness about Christ. While we are called to aid the oppressed and relieve the suffering in this world, we cannot form partnerships that will compromise our holiness or malign the witness of Christ. What good have we done if we defend one person’s freedoms by resisting another with hatred, malice, and contempt?
We are responsible for what we know and how such knowledge affects others with respect to our Christian testimony and witness:
1 Corinthians 10:27–28 (CSB) — 27 If any of the unbelievers invites you over and you want to go, eat everything that is set before you, without raising questions for the sake of conscience. 28 But if someone says to you, “This is food from a sacrifice,” do not eat it, out of consideration for the one who told you, and for the sake of conscience.
While I am not responsible to hire a private detective to investigate the private life of candidates because their private lives are between them and God, when a candidate brings their character into their platform, they force Christians to evaluate their platform on moral grounds.
To illustrate this point, imagine a vulgar person starts a burger chain. On their own time they may cuss, swear, curse, sleep around, and do all kinds of things that we disagree with, but that is their right because God has given them the privilege of moral autonomy to make their own decisions. If their burger joint is clean, I should not be troubled buying food from them. But, if they start putting naked girls and vulgarities on their burger wrappers, they have made their immorality part of their business. I am now forced to evaluate my interaction with their establishment on moral grounds because they have chosen to make their business a moral issue.
When a political candidate’s character becomes part of their platform, Christians must deal with the moral character of their political platform. We cannot affirm, justify, or embrace sin. We may find ways to separate ourselves from the questionable character attributes of their platform, but we must deal with those attributes.
SUMMARY: My Five Biblical Principles For Politics
So, in concise terms, here are my five principles for evaluating politics from a Biblical perspective:
- We are meant to be citizens of the kingdom of God and must be separate from the sectarianism of the world. See 1stCorinthians 3:3-4; Galatians 5:20.
- We are meant to live by the principles of God’s Kingdom in all that we do and must never compromise our eternal principles to gain temporal ground. See Matthew 7:21-27; John 8:31.
- We are meant to pursue Kingdom interests above civil or social interests. See Matthew 6:33, 23:23-24; Mark 12:29-31; 1st Peter 2:11.
- We are responsible for what know (not what we don’t know) about the character and goals of the political partnerships that we form and how such partnerships affect our Christian testimony and witness to others. See Romans 14:15-16; 1st Corinthians 10:27-28; 2nd Corinthians 8:21.
- We can partner with people who do not share our values when such partnerships do not compromise the above principles. See Nehemiah 2:1-20; Matthew 5:13-16.