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Choose Your Leaders

Election day is upon us, so it is time to choose the leaders who will govern us for the coming years. Many Christians consider the business of politics is too worldly to have the collective church involved in the choosing of leaders, and the Internal Revenue Service forbids tax-exempt organizations such as churches from endorsing candidates. Moreover, there is no evidence in the New Testament that the early church was involved collectively in the appointment of political officials. Concerning civil authorities, the church is only instructed to offer specific prayers for them so that "we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity" and that they might be saved. (1Tim. 2:1-4). Furthermore, each Christian is to submit to the authority of civil leaders, to pay taxes, and to be ready to give a defense of the faith if ever called on to do so (Matt. 22:17-21; Rom. 13:1-7; 1Pet. 2:13-17; 3:13-17).

With these things in mind, let us understand that the church collectively and Christians individually do have responsibilities concerning the election of leaders. The responsibility of prayer has already been noted, but there is even more. The church's responsibility as the "pillar and support of the truth" (1Tim. 3:15) is simply to teach the truth of God's word in every area of life, including those which affect the selection of civil leaders. Moral and spiritual issues sometimes also become political issues, but this does not mean that the church must cease from preaching on such issues. Instead, the church must continue to teach the truth on these matters regardless of the politics involved. It follows then that each Christian's responsibility is to make the application of the truth in the election of civil leaders. If a Christian chooses to vote, then he or she should vote in compliance with the principles of God's word.

The Bible does offer a divinely wise example and pattern for selecting our leaders. Christians tend to overlook this pattern because the governing officials of the New Testament era were not democratically elected, and first century Christians did not have a voice in the selection of leaders. However, if we look back to the Old Testament, then we find a model of democracy in the early years of the nation of Israel. In fact, the founding fathers of the United States incorporated this Biblical model into our own nation when they established our government.

This pattern is found in the Law of Moses beginning in Exodus 18:13-27. When the burden of judging every dispute in Israel became too great for Moses, his father-in-law Jethro advised him, saying, "[Y]ou shall select out of all the people able men who fear God, men of truth, those who hate dishonest gain; and you shall place these over them as leaders of thousands, of hundreds, of fifties and of tens" (v. 21). Moses followed this advice with the commandment of God (v. 23), and it went well with Israel. In Deuteronomy 1:9-18, Moses recounted these events, and he said that the people of Israel chose for themselves "wise and discerning and experienced men" to be their leaders (v. 13). He also said that he told these men, "You shall not show partiality in judgment; you shall hear the small and the great alike. You shall not fear man, for the judgment is God's" (v. 17). Later, this same process of selecting judges and officers was codified in the Law in Deuteronomy 16:18-17:13. The responsibility of choosing these leaders was given to the people, for Moses said, "You shall appoint for yourself judges and officers..." (16:18).

From this pattern, we can learn a sound, godly basis for selecting our own leaders. They should be able men who fear God, men of truth, and those who hate dishonest gain. They should also be wise and discerning. Perhaps most importantly, they should recognize their God-given responsibilities as civil authorities. When Moses told the leaders of Israel that their "judgment is God's" (Deut. 1:17), he indicated that their judgment was to be respected as an exercise of God's own authority. This did not mean that they could make any judgment they pleased, but instead it meant that they were to judge in compliance with God's law. When they did so, it was the very judgment of God Himself. Likewise, all civil officials today must recognize that any authority they have comes from God (John 19:10-11; Rom. 13:1-4). Therefore, candidates for office who have no respect for God and His authority in civil government are not worthy of our votes.

We all know that politics is dirty business, but this must not cause us to shirk our responsibilities toward our civil authorities. Let us therefore offer our prayers for all of them just as God commands us. Furthermore, let us submit to them as they exercise authority in compliance with God's will. Finally, let us choose our leaders according to the precepts and qualifications given in God's word. As we do so, let us keep in mind that the beginning and ending of a Christian's politics should rest on the wisdom of God's word, for Proverbs 14:34 says, "Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a disgrace to any people." Certainly, we should allow our faith to shape our politics rather than allowing our politics to shape our faith.

Stacey E. Durham



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