Do not lay hands on anyone too quickly,
and so participate in the sins of other men; keep yourself pure.
– 1 Tim. 4:22
American evangelicals are in a quandary. No, they’re in a crisis. They are eager to vote for an electable presidential candidate who embraces biblical values, but in 2016 it appears they cannot. For reasons that are painfully obvious—and that have been rehearsed ad nauseum—they realize that neither Hillary Clinton nor Donald Trump is worthy of their enthusiastic support. How, then, should they vote? Should they vote for “the lesser of two evils”? Should they vote for a third party candidate? Or should they vote Christian and conservative down the ticket, but not vote for president at all? Trust me when I say I have given this matter LOTS of prayer and thought. In the present essay I offer both my reflections conclusions. I hope they will help you vote, both now and in the years to come.
In mulling this matter, I have isolated four biblically based lenses through which I believe we can successfully evaluate any candidate for office. They are character, conviction, competence, and calling. Let’s think together about these for a moment, and then apply them to our present situation.
First comes character. And first it is, for character always precedes policy, and determines policy. As our Lord said, “A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad cannot bear good.” We must, then, pay the closest possible attention to a candidate’s character.
But how, exactly, do we evaluate a man’s character? For the Christian, the benchmark of all true character is the character of Jesus Christ. In evaluating a candidate, we examine him (or her) for the presence of those spiritual attributes that made the Lord Jesus the ideal man, the “firstborn” over a whole new race of godly human beings. These attributes include piety, holiness, righteousness, wisdom, honesty, love, kindness, courage, self-sacrifice, and more. And among sinners who truly know their Savior, these attributes also include one important trait not found in their sinless Master: the ability humbly to admit one’s mistakes and misdeeds, and to apologize for them.
No biblically informed Christian expects a candidate to display a flawless character; as it is written, all have sinned and fall short of the glorious character of Christ and God. Nevertheless, in a world where darkness and light always commingle, some among us, by God’s grace, do indeed display many of the character traits of Christ, and in noticeable measure. Christians should only vote for candidates who do.