Mt Soledad
Welcome to the
Christian Citizenship Council
of San Diego
San Diego
“When the righteous thrive, the people rejoice; when the wicked rule, the people groan.” (Prov 29:2)

Equipping the Church to Vote

Chapter 7: Biblical Qaulifications for Candidates

“The king’s heart is in the hand of the LORD; he directs
it like a watercourse wherever he pleases.” (Prov 21:1)

If you relied upon radio advertisements and mass mailings describing candidates for office you’d walk away with a very distorted view of anyone’s qualifications.  The environment in which politics is played in the United States can be vicious and extremely destructive.  It is the rare candidate that attempts to stay above the fray and only deal with issues and their own qualifications.  But what are we to do when there is such limited insight available into a person’s true character, and their opposition distorts truth so much?

For a Christian, reliance is often made on very unreliable information.  Worse yet is the situation where one has not made up his mind until the night before the election and begins to go through the mountain of information they’ve received in the mail and attempt to make an “informed” decision.  Not only that, but how many of us will admit to relying upon our spouse to call the shots, and then just copy their decisions?

The selection of those that will “rule” over us is a profound responsibility that should never be taken lightly.  All who attain office are placed there for our good by God (Rom 13:1-5), and if we vote, we are an active party to who will occupy that office and the decisions they’ll eventually make – whether good or bad.  Just as its important to chose a competent auto mechanic, or brain surgeon, it’s important to know as much about each candidate as possible even though at times it can be extremely difficult.

So what should we try to find out?  The following list is a good starting point on what we should know before we are willing to endorse them for an important leadership position.  I list these qualifications for two reasons.  First, it helps demonstrate how little we typically know about those we usually vote for.  Secondly, these should be the questions we have in mind when we’re doing our homework on an individual’s qualifications.  The list is ordered to address a candidate from literally the inside out.  The spiritual condition is the most critical, then the principles that provide the bedrock for their decisions, the quality of their character as they act upon their principles, then their actual track record.  Though the following is not a complete listing, it does provide a starting point.

Qualifications Relating to a Candidate’s Spiritual Condition:

  • Are they a sincere, committed believer? (2 Cor 13:5)
  • Do they have a clear, personal testimony relating to Jesus Christ? (Rom 10:9-13)
  • Are they a faithful member in good standing of a Christ-honoring Church? (Heb 10:25)
  • Are they accountable to the leadership within their church? (Heb 13:17)
  • Do they routinely seek counsel from mature, godly men? (Prov 11:14)

Qualifications Relating to a Candidate’s Basic Decision Principles:

  • Do they understand the Biblical roles of the family (Col 3:18-21), the church (Matt 5:13-16), and government? (Rom 13:1-7)
  • Do they understand the need for strengthening of families as much as possible? (1 Tim 5:8)
  • Do they understand the need for rightly defined and applied justice (Psalm 82:3; Prov 21:3)
  • Do they uphold and defend the sanctity of life from conception to its natural end? (Ex 20:13)
  • Do they strongly encourage and support morality in all spheres of public and private life? (Eph 5:3-7)

Qualifications Relating to a Candidate’s Character:

  • Would they meet the Biblical qualifications for Elder or Deacon? (1 Tim 3:1-13; Titus 1:6-9; 1 Peter 5:1-3)
  • Have they demonstrated personal responsibility and remorse (repentance) for any prior sinful actions, and understand why they were wrong? (Prov 12:1; 1 Cor 6:9-11)
  • Do they appear to be double-minded? (James 4:7-8)
  • Do they appear to be ambitious for power, or for serving? (James 3:13-18)
  • Do others you respect openly support this person? (Prov 27:2)

Qualifications Relating to a Candidate’s Knowledge of the Position:

  • Do they have related experience in a similar type of position? (Prov 22:29)
  • Do they understand the issues and decisions they will face? (Luke 14:25-32)
  • Is their previous voting record (if any) morally sound?  In not, is there a good understanding as to why? (1 Tim 3:10)
  • Do they have the necessary ability to work with different types of people? (2 Tim 2:24-25; Col 4:5-6)

Remember, each individual voter doesn’t have to independently do all the research on each candidate.  Once collected, it can be organized and shared with a number of others in a variety of ways.  Remember also that candidates are asking to represent YOU, therefore they should be willing to provide information to allow you to make an informed decision concerning their competency to govern.  Some thoughts on how and where to gather information follow.

Contact the Candidate Directly

  • Locate the candidates office and ask for an opportunity to meet personally with the candidate
  • If the position is a local office, it may be possible to visit the candidate in their home.  This provides an excellent opportunity to learn about them and their views as well as their family life and environment
  • Invite the candidate to a small group for questions and answers in a casual setting
  • Find out where the candidate has speaking engagements and attend.  Hear their positions on issues directly.  Ask questions dear to you if the opportunity presents itself. Often they will stay around to answer questions one on one afterwards

Contact the Candidates Information Outlets

  • Call the candidates office and ask specific questions and for information to be sent to you
  • Keep all mailings you receive that are pertinent
  • Access and read the candidates web site (if they have one)
  • Get all press releases and position papers that are available

Contact Outside Groups

  • Track down local newspaper articles about the candidate
  • Find voter guides that any of a number of organizations produce.  A word of caution, however, be careful of the motivation behind the guides
  • Contact local watch dog groups for information on “hot” issues
  • Find out what individuals and/or organizations endorse the candidate
  • Call local radio stations (Christian also) to find out what they know about the candidate
  • Assess carefully what opposing candidates are saying
  • If the candidate has a prior public voting record, find out what it was

Contact any Acquaintances That May Know the Candidate

  • Talk to those you know that may have personal knowledge of the candidate to get a clearer, more personal picture of them
  • Talk to the candidate’s neighbors to ensure they have a good reputation in the community they live in
  • If you can determine what church they are a member of, make contact to find out if they are in good standing.  Talk to the pastor to find out more specifically

Contact the Candidate’s Campaign Manager and Volunteer

  • Volunteer to walk precincts for the candidate so you have an opportunity to meet them and find out first hand what they are like and how they are running their campaign
  • Talk to those that know the candidate well to get a fuller view of them
  • Watch how the campaign is organized and run to see if it is a high integrity, honest campaign

An excellent way to develop an even greater understanding of a candidate’s qualifications is to use church small groups to compare notes on all collected information.  These can be home Bible study groups, discussion groups and Sunday School classes used to wrestle with issues.  By sharing available information with a larger audience not only are more equipped to vote correctly, but a better appreciation for what is important to you as well as others is developed.
A thorny question we’ve all faced is whether we can with a clear conscience vote for a person that is not a Christian.  There are obviously several different conditions that can exist: a Christian running against a non-Christian; two Christians running against each other; two (or more) non-Christians running for the same office.  There can be concern about a professing Christian’s true condition of faith when actions do not match what would be expected from a Biblical perspective.  In addition, it can happen that a Christian may not have some of the requisite qualifications (knowledge, experience, background).  Just because a candidate is a Christian doesn’t necessarily make that person the best (most qualified) one to hold the office.  As in other fields and professions, the person’s moral fiber may not be the determining factor, however, I must be quick to add that a position of public leadership demands that a higher standard be used to judge who will rule over us.  In addition, any particular position may become a springboard to higher public office with even greater influence and impact upon the public.
Most, if not all, legislation has a moral component to it.  A public servant’s basic life principles, and whether they believe they are accountable to the Almighty Judge of the universe, should carry great sway in whether they can be supported for the job or not.  Another moral component is the person’s life as a leader in the public eye.  A holder of public office can influence their constituents for good or evil by the example of their personal life.  Contrary to major media claims to the contrary, character does count, and it counts a lot.  The following quote from Noah Webster (1758-1843) combines these two thoughts, our responsibility and the qualifications for office:

“It is alleged by men of loose principles…that religion and morality are not necessary or important qualifications for political stations.  But the Scriptures teach a different doctrine.  They direct that rulers should be men who rule in the fear of God…”  “When you become entitled to exercise the right of voting for public officers, let it be impressed on your mind that God commands you to choose for rulers just men who will rule in the fear of God.  The preservation of a republican government depends on the faithful discharge of this duty; if the citizens neglect their duty and place unprincipled men in office, the government will soon be corrupted…”

Judge for yourself, does history demonstrate the truth of the above quote?  I believe any honest assessment would show that it is true.  The problem in the typical election comes when the quality of the candidates’ personal lives are either unknown or at best inaccurately portrayed by the opposition.
The phrase we’ve all heard in describing the typical election is to select the “lesser of two evils.”  This is not only a sad commentary on the quality of men and women seeking public office, but also on our level of frustration in making a selection.  In practical terms, a multi-faceted approach is needed to overcome this situation.  When close to an election we must exercise our vote in as responsible a manner as possible.  By recognizing that voting for a particular person does not automatically mean we endorse everything about them, we become freer to choose those closer to the type of person we desire to rule over us.  This requires a person to wrestle through the “principle” verses “practice” concerns addressed in Chapter 6, particularly when third party choices exist.  Whatever the eventual outcome, we’re still duty bound to make a choice that will result in the least damage.  Afterwards, our recourse is to influence (and encourage) our representative to make godly decisions as often and as convincingly as we can.
A longer term perspective is to raise up sincere Christian candidates for all levels of public service.  This requires mentoring those that are gifted to lead and have the heart to serve in a hostile environment.  I believe pastors (and fathers) are in a particularly critical position to influence godly young men and women to seek elected positions.  If this sphere of endeavor is viewed as “unworthy” or “intrinsically evil”, then it’s no surprise the righteous won’t pursue it.  But, what better way to influence society for good and to bring glory to Christ in the public domain than having godly lives, making godly decisions, visibly exampling their Christian walk to all?  This has happened in the past, and it can still happen in our nation today.

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