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Christian Citizenship Council
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“When the righteous thrive, the people rejoice; when the wicked rule, the people groan.” (Prov 29:2)

“A Biblical Perspective on Candidate Qualifications”

Citizens of the United States are entrusted with a duty to choose who will, in effect, rule over us.  Elections have existed in some form for thousands of years, but rather than becoming more straightforward, they’ve become more sophisticated, expensive, emotional, and tiring each year.  Since campaigns tend to masterfully obscure rather than reveal a candidate’s true character, is it any wonder we’re often disappointed with the results?  But, like it or not, we’re accountable to the Lord for our vote and should judge the worthiness of a candidate using meaningful standards, not by sound bites or how they comb their hair. 

Though the Bible has no qualifications list for public office, it does describe core beliefs and values we should take seriously in any evaluation.  This month I’ll address two such areas, a candidate’s spiritual condition and decision principles, while next month I’ll look at character and experience. 

The Candidates Spiritual Condition.

Much is made about being tolerant of those with radically different faiths, as if there’s moral equivalency amongst all religions.  From a Christian perspective, however, the spiritual condition of the candidate (specifically – their relationship to Jesus Christ) is the most important qualification.  Superficial attributes such as looks, height, verbal glibness, college degree, presence, etc. are only shallow indicators of the true inner person.  If honest, many of us will admit these qualities form most of our candidate impressions.  But why would we let such shallow evaluations drive our voting decisions when we know that only those submitting to the Lordship of Christ, and the authority of God’s word, can fully appreciate the eternal consequences of their decisions?

So, first and foremost, we should be asking: are they a sincere believer and not just a Christian in name only (2 Cor 13:5)?  Second, do they have a clear, personal testimony relating to Jesus Christ (Rom 10:9-11)?  Third, are they a member in good standing of a Christ-honoring Biblical church (Heb 10:24-25) and personally accountable to that church’s leadership (Heb 13:17)?   Fourth, do they routinely seek counsel from those who are more mature and godly (Prov 11:14)?  The bottom line is whether a person’s conscience is governed by the Lord.  If it’s not, how can we expect them to have our best interests at heart and do what’s right?  Is it possible for a non-Christian to be an effective public office holder?  Sure.  But my strong preference is one that has Christ ruling in their life – all else follows from that.

The Principles Underlying the Candidates Decisions.

Everyone bases decisions on some type of authority or standard.  For Christians, the Bible is God’s only revealed, authoritative word.  It provides the foundation for understanding human nature, the family, the role of government, and what constitutes good and evil.  The more removed a person is from scripture, the further they’ll be from understanding the basic principles that must govern their decisions.  For instance, understanding the role of the family, the church, and government from a Biblical worldview (e.g. Col 3:18-21; Matt 5:13-16; Rom 13:1-7, respectfully) helps to ensure the government will not usurp responsibilities belonging to the family.  Similarly, a proper understanding of government’s limitations will prevent it from co-opting the church’s role in society, such as ministering to the less fortunate with a balance of compassion, personal responsibility and accountability.

Along this line, do candidates believe government should be restrained to Biblical roles and be minimally intrusive in our lives?  Second, how do they view the government’s function in strengthening (not weakening) families, and not encouraging counterfeits to exist?  Third, do they have a clear Biblical view of government’s purpose to encourage good to thrive and to impartially dispense justice (e.g. punish evil, protect the nation)?  Fourth, how about life itself?  Does the candidate have a deep and abiding respect for the sanctity of life from conception until its natural end?  If not, why would we entrust power over life to anyone that doesn’t understand the duty to protect all life?  Finally, do they understand the importance of both public and private morality and the need to set a personal example that is above reproach in both actions and policy decisions? 

Thinking about the above questions shows how little we really know of most candidates.  This is not a reason to give up, but to be more diligent in our candidate assessments.  Next month, I’ll discuss a candidate’s character and experience qualifications. 

- Frank Kacer

First published as a Guest Commentary in the April 2006 issue of Good News Etc.