“I promise to . . .” are famous last words of a candidate, and often just as forgettable. We are approaching another election cycle, and I thought these words might be helpful when we are looking at choosing a candidate for public office. Often Christians are at odds with each other as to what makes a good candidate for office, because we are concerned about a candidate’s private morality (which we only rarely glimpse) and how he lines up with the Scriptures, as we understand them. Let’s be honest, no candidate will ever live up to our perfect ideas. And Scripture doesn’t come close to this absolute standard.
Romans 13 gives us a concise description of the role of government. “He is God’s servant, an agent of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer.” (vs. 46) The Government is God’s agent to bring justice to the criminal and protection for the oppressed. God established this role way back in Genesis 9:6
“Whoever sheds the blood of man,
By man shall his blood be shed;
For in the image of God
Has God made man.”
God defines crime as those listed in the ten commandments. While the first five deal with matters of faith, the last five concern the right to private property, the sanctity of heterosexual marriage, the sanctity of human life, and the necessity for truth and honesty in public discourse. If you are looking for a “good” candidate for office, ask them how they stand on these issues.
Now consider those in Scripture who were called by God to fulfill His purposes: The Pharaoh of Egypt, whose obstinacy led to the 10 plagues and the Passover. Nebuchadnezzar, who captured Judah and sent them into exile for 70 years. Cyrus the Persian who fulfilled God’s promises to Jews by sending them back to the land of Israel. None of these men were Christians, and we could probably point out many faults in their leadership. Yet God used them to accomplish His purposes.
The sole role of government, as ordained by God, is to bring justice and punish the wicked. Any candidate that rewards wrong behavior and punishes good behavior is ignoring the proper place and role of government. Any candidate who justifies the death of the innocent (the unborn or the aged) and protects the life of the guilty is resisting his mandate from God.
For example, a candidate that wishes to punish good economic behavior, including having a well-paying job, or a successful business, by levying higher taxes, is not bringing justice. God blesses the righteous, and he blesses their finances as well. Excusing this by stating that taxes will be cut for the majority of Americans does not justify punishment of those who are successful for the benefit of those who are not. The majority of Americans work for someone who is wealthier than they are. If the wealthy have higher taxes, they will reduce costs, the most expensive of which is labor. Do you work for a company whose bottom line is so narrow, that even a slight increase in taxes will mean someone’s job? How is this the role of government, to decide who works and who doesn’t?
The role of government is to punish the wrongdoer next door or in another country, whether the wrongdoer is powerless or powerful. Wrong isn’t defined by what polls desire, but by the immutable standard of God’s Word. Justice is to be blind to social status or economic class. The government is called to do justice, so that the righteous may flourish. A candidate that steps outside of this narrow role and practices social reform is well outside his mandate. Only the power of God can change the heart of a man (see Jeremiah 17:9). Only God can bring about reform. The Law only makes you feel guilty. Only God grants grace to those who trust in Jesus.
Just some thoughts as you enter the voting booth.