One has only to watch the news, drive down the street, or look at social media for 2.7 seconds to realize one singular fact…
It is an election year in America.
That’s right, folks. Election Year! Placards wallpapering the roadside, political television and radio spots with the flip of every channel, unbridled rhetoric filling the walls and news feeds of Facebook and Twitter. We seem to have about every conceivable viewpoint, every imaginable ideology, and every possible position covered. We all have in our minds the perfect candidate; the one that we agree with on 99.9999% of the issues important to our nation. And while the Democratic side of the nation has far fewer candidates to choose from than the Republican side, it would seem that just about every possible ideology is represented.
Everything except, perhaps… reality.
The reality of the situation, particularly on the conservative side of things, is that we are looking for someone who does not exist: The perfect candidate. We want to believe that we agree with a certain candidate about everything when we really don’t because he (or she) is “our guy”. We want to not agree with a certain candidate because they are not “our guy”. The fact of the matter is that there is not really that much that separates most of the candidates on either side. Most Republicans agree on most issues. Most Democrats agree on most issues.
So how do we pick? How do we choose the best person for the job? How do we make peace with ourselves and our ideology when “our guy” is not our nominee of choice?
There is the saying that “those who don’t learn from history are doomed to repeat it.” And while we view the Bible from a theological standpoint, we sometimes forget the fact that it is also a book of historical events. In reading the Bible, we learn that God oftentimes used unlikely people to accomplish His purposes.
Cyrus II, King of Persia
“Cyrus the Great” was king of Persia, and was what most of us would consider “a heathen”. He was brought up in the worship of the idols of the Medes and Persians. Yet, here is what God had to say about Cyrus in Isaiah 45…
“Thus says the Lord to His anointed,
To Cyrus, whose right hand I have held—
To subdue nations before him
And loose the armor of kings,
To open before him the double doors,
So that the gates will not be shut:
‘I will go before you
And make the crooked places straight;
I will break in pieces the gates of bronze
And cut the bars of iron.
I will give you the treasures of darkness
And hidden riches of secret places,
That you may know that I, the Lord,
Who call you by your name,
Am the God of Israel.
For Jacob My servant’s sake,
And Israel My elect,
I have even called you by your name;
I have named you, though you have not known Me.
I am the Lord, and there is no other;
There is no God besides Me.
I will gird you, though you have not known Me,
That they may know from the rising of the sun to its setting
That there is none besides Me.
I am the Lord, and there is no other;
I form the light and create darkness,
I make peace and create calamity;
I, the Lord, do all these things.’
God anointed King Cyrus to free his people from the Babylonians. Not only did Cyrus allow God’s people to return to Jerusalem to rebuild, but he charged the people living in the lands where the children of Israel lived to assist them with donations of “silver and gold, with goods and with animals, besides freewill offerings…” (Ezra 1)
God used a person of questionable spiritual standing to change the lives and destiny of His people. God didn’t just USE him… God ANOINTED Cyrus for the task. While Cyrus (followed by Darius and Artaxerxes after him) did not have the “desired” spiritual knowledge and background, what he did have were the practical knowledge, ability, resources, and authority to rebuild the temple of God, and eventually, Jerusalem itself. In Proverbs 21:1, we read…
The king’s heart is in the hand of the Lord,
Like the rivers of water;
He turns it wherever He wishes.
This verse doesn’t say “the Christian king” or “the Spirit-filled king”… it simply says “the king” — ANY king. Take a look at Romans 13:1…
Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities,
for there is no authority except that which God has established.
The authorities that exist have been established by God. (NIV)
God puts people into authority for His purposes. Sometimes it is to judge His people. Sometimes to chastise His people. Sometimes to encourage His people. Sometimes to challenge His people. Regardless of His reason or purpose for elevating any individual, You can rest assured He has one.
And while some candidates come across as “Cyrus-like” (which, honestly, is how I view someone like Mr. Trump), still others have unabashedly courted the “evangelical vote”. While each candidate, at least on the Republican side, has expressed their belief in God, some have been more forceful about their commitment to Him. Candidates like Ted Cruz, Ben Carson, Mike Huckabee, and Marco Rubio have professed their Christianity in no uncertain terms. Yet even so, we have seen backbiting, personal attacks, and “dirty politics” emerge from some of these camps. We see, on both sides, candidates who have spoken favorably about one another in the past now tearing each other down on a daily basis. However, Galatians 5:15 warns us…
But if you bite and devour one another,
beware lest you be consumed by one another!
In 1980, George H.W. Bush won the Iowa caucus against former California Governor (and former Democrat) Ronald Reagan. Yet, in the end, Mr. Reagan was chosen as the Republican candidate for president. And while during the primary both candidates had their differences, they never went so far afield in their attacks that they were unable to come together, join as eventual running mates, and serve two terms together, with Mr. Bush going on to serve one more term, this time as president.
I have said all of this to encourage you… get out and vote. Be a part of the process. Make your voice heard.
Someone once said, “In the primary, vote your conscience. In the general election, vote your party.” While this idea does hold some exceptions, there is some truth in it. Most every one that has a political ideology is a member of their party — Republican or Democrat — for a reason. Generally, you choose a party because of that party’s platform; the core values of the party itself. Even many “Independents” tend to lean one way or the other for the same reason. So while you go about supporting the candidate of your choice, remember these three things:
#1. Listen beyond the bluster and personalities of the candidates. We all have different personalities. Some are extroverted and loud. Some are meek and introverted. We have a tendency to want to vote for people who are like us. If that is you, just remember…
Abraham Lincoln had no denominational affiliation. Considered to be the father of the Republican party, Lincoln’s name, legacy, and words are invoked probably more than any other politician.
Harry Truman was known for his profanity. Bill Clinton was alleged to be a womanizer. Both of these men were allegedly Baptists.
Regardless of the criticism leveled at a candidate, be careful to avoid extremes in your own criticism. I have seen an amazing amount of rhetoric and vitriol leveled at certain candidates in the media, as well as on social media. You may be forced to have to swallow your pride and eat your words if your candidate is not your party’s nominee. What you should consider heavily is the candidate’s track record of success and failure, and their position on the issues that are important to you and the nation.
#2. Remember we are ALL human. We all make mistakes. We all misspeak, and say things that we wish we could take back the moment the words leave our lips. Candidates, just like the rest of us, change their minds and positions. Personally, I would rather have a leader who recognizes and is honest about his or her mistakes than someone who doubles-down on a bad position or bad decision because of pride. While we should always be wise in our choices of leaders, we need to also recognize their humanity and fallibility as well. Personally, I would love to see a born-again, Spirit-filled person elevated to office of President, but that may not be the person God has ANOINTED for the task (remember Cyrus).
#3. Vote. Abraham Lincoln once said, “He has a right to criticize who has a heart to help.” As much as I hate to say this, sometimes voting is not about picking the person who will do the most good. Sometimes, it is about picking the person who will do the least harm. Sometimes, neither candidate is ideal. Sometimes, you may feel like you are just choosing between the lesser of two evils. However, by choosing not to vote, you have voted — you chose not to support the candidate who had the best chance of success.
In Jeremiah 29:7, God told the exiled children of Israel…
But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare. (ESV)
While this world is not our home, and we serve a higher King, we have a responsibility to be good citizens of the place where God has planted us. That means being a good neighbor, caring for our communities, and getting involved in the decision-making process — a big part of which is exercising our right to vote.
I have a friend who is recovering from cancer. In the last three years, he has been diagnosed with three different types of cancer, so it is safe to say he has been through a variety of treatments and procedures. In the last year, he has undergone five surgeries. We were recently discussing the political landscape and the election, and he put it to me this way:
“When you are going through cancer, you choose the treatment that has the best track record, the one that is going to have the best chance of saving your life. None of them are pleasant. Every treatment I have undergone has had its side-effects, pain, and associated misery. However, in the end, I just had to go with the best option, and trust God with the results. Sure, I had the choice to just do nothing, but that decision probably would have cost me my life.”
We as believers have the opportunity to be a part of turning our nation around. The candidate you get may not be the one you want, but may be the one God anointed. The next four years may not fix every ill in our nation, but may simply be a small step in the right direction. If we do our part and vote, there is still the chance we could fail.
However, if we as believers in Jesus do nothing at all, failure is guaranteed.
Because “… faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.” ~ James 2:17
May America bless God once again,