I will never forget the first time I voted in a national election. I had turned 18 only four months earlier and went to the poll with my father. It helps to know my dad was a shop-steward in the UAW, and a life-long Democrat. We parked at the local high school, registered, and cast our votes in small cubicles protected by privacy curtains.
My dad had to wait while I poured over the ballot and used the voting guide I had prepared the night before. I considered voting an important privilege and wanted to be intentional in my choices. Dad was beside himself. “What in the h*** took you so long?” he asked. I smiled and answered in youthful arrogance, “Well, Dad, I’m not in the Union so I actually have to think for myself before I vote.” I can’t remember exactly what he said in response, but to his credit, he did give me a ride home.
As a pastor, I’ve made a concerted effort to stay out of offering political advice or taking sides. But we do care. Our pastors have often offered public prayers for our nation and our nation’s leaders no matter what their party or position. It’s the godly thing to do. Paul advised Timothy,
I urge that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people— for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. 1 Timothy 2:1-4
I can honestly say I have voted on both sides of the aisle and was leaning toward the Libertarian Rand Paul this year before he pulled out of the race for lack of traction. I liked his moxie, no-nonsense and independent approach to the issues. I also like what these guys had to say about the political process.
“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
“Let us not seek the Republican answer or the Democratic answer, but the right answer. Let us not seek to fix the blame for the past. Let us accept our own responsibility for the future.” John F. Kennedy
After 45 years of voting, I have developed my own ten-point guide to choosing capable public servants. You have every right to disagree. That’s the American way. Note: Except for the first qualification, the other nine are in no particular order of importance.)
1. Choose a godly person. My reason may surprise you. I don’t automatically vote for the most orthodox Christian on the ballot. I simply want my candidate to make decisions about right and wrong from a godly perspective. I believe the Bible that says, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom and a good understanding have those who honor God’s commandments.”
2. Choose an intelligent person. I’m not persuaded by rhetoric as much as I am by personal intelligence. Intelligence isn’t everything, but in my opinion an intelligent person will hopefully get it right more often than wrong.
3. A listening person. No one can know everything. I have always surrounded myself with people who know more than me in their area of expertise. I want an elected leader who is willing to surround themselves with good people and has the wisdom to listen to them.
4. A person capable of doing what is right over what is popular. A leader who always tests the winds of popular opinion is not a leader. He is a follower.
5. A compassionate leader. There are always people who need a hand-up in life. We should do all we can to help them. The key is to establish policy based on the norm not the exception. Let’s not encourage those who are capable to fain weakness in order to gain a benefit that should be reserved for the truly deserving.
6. Favors personal initiative. People need to be encouraged to work hard and help each other in a system that rewards effort, charity, and personal achievement.
7. A person who unites and not divides. America is a racially, religiously, ethnically, politically and a socially diverse nation. Despite my Christian perspective, I want an elected leader who treats everyone with respect and acceptance. You don’t have to agree with a person to treat them with dignity and respect.
8. Fair. Everyone should have an equal say and equal access to the process. Then, based on wise counsel and as much objectivity as humanly possible, make a decision. You can’t please everyone, but the process should be considered fair by most.
9. Humble. It is possible to be humbly-strong and a servant-leader. The terms are not contradictory. A good leader praises and raises others and remains grateful for the advice, gifts and wisdom the Lord and others provide to help him achieve good outcomes. He should thank God for His blessing and give credit to others for a job well done.
10. A sense of humor. A good leader can deal with serious situations without taking themselves too seriously. He can see the humor in human nature and be gracious towards others. He can laugh at absurdity, accept mistakes as lessons learned, shake off the dust, and start over.
So, there you have it. I have crossed the line… a partially retired pastor has certain freedoms and immunities I’ve come to enjoy. I feel a little like the apostle Paul who once gave advice to people about staying single or marrying. He said, “I say this as an expressed opinion, not a command.” And, “I have no command from the Lord but I give my opinion as one who by the mercy of God is trustworthy…” I wonder if he was partially retired when he wrote that?
On a parting thought I also have high admiration for the US President who has been consistently voted the most admired ever to hold the office. Abraham Lincoln once said, “I am not bound to win, but I am bound to be true. I am not bound to succeed but I am bound to live by the light that I have. I must stand with anybody that stands right, and stand with him while he is right, and part with him when he goes wrong.”
This is the day for a man like that. Where is the man for the day?
“Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD, the people he chose for his inheritance. From heaven the LORD looks down and sees all mankind; from his dwelling place he watches all who live on earth— he who forms the hearts of all, who considers everything they do. No king is saved by the size of his army; no warrior escapes by his great strength. A horse is a vain hope for deliverance; despite all its great strength it cannot save. But the eyes of the LORD are on those who fear him, on those whose hope is in his unfailing love…” Psalm 33
- What’s the most important quality of a godly leader?
- Define true strength.
- What does the Bible mean when it says, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom?”
When you vote do you…
A. Tend to vote a straight party line.
B. Mix it up.
C. The process is so flawed I rarely even bother.
Take the survey and leave a comment to the benefit of others who will consider your insights.
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Lord, we are an imperfect people who expect our elected leaders to model perfection. Help us to better manage our expectations. Remind us of the importance of persistent prayer, and the truth that while mankind makes decisions, You alone determine outcomes. Help us not to become too prideful when we “win” our way, or despair too greatly when we “lose.” You are in control Lord. Keep us mindful of Your ability to turn a person and a nation around. Lord, we ask for You bless those who honor You and guide those who don’t to the knowledge of the truth. Amen.
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