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Pray and Think First

March 4, 2016

Like just about every other person of faith in the USA I have been doing quite a bit of praying, thinking, and talking about our current political climate and what the future could hold.  In some ways we are seeing political history made right before our eyes and in other ways we are seeing a grotesque display of the lack of true civility and political discourse.  I confess I have not watched a single debate to date in this political season, and what I read from multiple sources just confirms that I learn more from researching candidates based on their websites, voting records, speeches, writings and businesses than I would from all those hours watching the privileged trade personal insults with one another.

As a Christ follower, who calls the Bible his guide for faith and practice, I began to ask myself what kind of leader does God favor?  I was reminded of a passage that few of us consider as we think about leadership.  In the Old Testament book of Deuteronomy, in which Moses reiterates God’s law we find a passage that all too often gets glossed over.  In Chapter 17, verses 14-20, Moses gives the stipulations for the person the nation would choose to be their king.  Now I know we don’t elect a king in the USA, but there are some overriding principles in these verses that give me pause in the emotionally charged political season.

Through Moses God told Israel that the day would come when they would want a king.  So he outlines some characteristics for this person.  The king was obviously to be an Israelite (v. 15). He was not to acquire a large stable of horses (v. 16).  He was not to marry many wives;  nor was he to amass personal wealth (v. 17).  He was to personally write the Law of God, and carry that copy with him at all times (vv. 18-19).  He was also to not be a person who considered himself better than those he led (v. 20).  That is quite the list, and frankly no king in Israel’s subsequent history lived up to that list perfectly.  But those who followed it even partially had more successful reigns.

So what does this have to do with our American way of government?  Consider the overriding principles in those stipulations.  The leader of the nation was to be a person who understood that amassing personal wealth and power would not lead to successful leadership.  In that culture building a large stable of horses, having many wives and much wealth was paramount to the king believing that he was his own person and relied only on himself and the negotiations he could forge, for his success.  Arrogant leadership and personal power were not and are not qualities that God espoused.  And yet it seems that this is the rule for some who aspire to lead this great country. 

God wanted those who led his people to be humble and not think they were above those they were leading.  The trait of humility is one that is revered by our Lord throughout scripture.  Jesus said that the best leaders were first of all servants (Mark 10:43-45).  In any endeavor the minute a leader considers themselves better than the people they lead, they lose the respect of those they lead.  From my observations the next stage is to lead by manipulation, intimidation, and fear tactics and that is the way of many totalitarian dictators.

I get the fact that people in our country are angry over gridlock in our nation’s capital.  Angry voterHey, I live in Illinois, the state that is the new picture of gridlock as the Land of Lincoln has not had a state budget since last July.  I have seen how this gridlock of politicians who are arrogantly unwilling to compromise has affected ministries and friends that I care about.  I am as angry over arrogant, power based politics as the next person.  And yet I am reminded that “…human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires” (NIV, James 1:20).  It is unwise to make a major decision, even to cast a vote for a candidate in anger before considering the ramifications of one’s choice.

So who will I vote for?  That is between me and the ballot box.  But I will take time and think long and hard about my choice.  I will pray about my choice and I will run my choice through the grid of God principles for leadership.  The bottom line for me is this reminder: A leader who forgets that he or she attained their position with the help of many others is foolish at best and arrogant at worse.  A leader who simply says what others want to hear in order to attain a position of power is by definition a demagogue.  Neither of those options are remotely satisfactory.

I would urge anyone who calls themselves a Christ-follower to consider two things:   First, never forget that nothing happening in our country right now has caught God by surprise.  As Daniel reminds us about our God:  “He changes times and seasons; he deposes kings and raises others up” (NIV, Dan. 2:21).  God is in control.

Secondly, just a bit of wisdom from Paul Green, (Director of the Institute for Politics and Arthur Rubloff Professor of Policy Studies at Roosevelt University in Chicago) “When a candidate tells you they are going to make sweeping changes ask two questions. 1) What are you going to change?  2) What is it going to cost me?”                                                                        
I guess my point to my fellow conservative evangelicals is to pray and think long and hard about God’s standards first before casting an emotional vote.

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