The process for choosing the next U.S. president is well under way. Many states have held their primary or caucus election leading up to the general election in November.
All presidential candidates have different views on major issues (see the AFA Action Voter Guide to see where these candidates stand on the issues). These views are important and Christians should pray for wisdom and discernment as they evaluate information on the candidates before deciding to vote.
Presidential candidates receive endorsements (which are also found in the AFA Action Voter Guide). While endorsements are critical to an ongoing campaign, it is important to keep in mind that the character and integrity of a candidate still matter. This is especially true for the highest office of the United States.
Character is determined by the values a person embraces while integrity is being faithful to those values. A person who consistently lives in accordance to their character is said to be living with high integrity. People of great integrity routinely practice their moral values even when others are not watching. A presidential candidate may claim a set of praiseworthy moral values but demonstrate little integrity. Meaning they don’t practice what they preach.
These moral values are determined by the standard a person establishes for their life. A Christian’s moral standard is the word of God: the Bible. Thus, Christian values for living are not arbitrarily or selectively chosen like one chooses from a food buffet. Christians cannot construct their values independent of what the Bible states because all biblical values apply to the Christian.
A Christian cannot practice or embrace any of the things the Bible says undermine his or her character like lying, deceit or pride. Consequently, Christians can’t pick and choose what biblical principles they want to apply to their life. They all apply.
Neither does authentic Christianity make an allowance for a professing Christian to formulate a dualistic system of values. It is not biblical to have one set of values based on the Bible and yet another set based on pragmatism or a self-determined set of values.
Just because a person may identify a set of values that pragmatically works for them does not necessarily mean these values are also biblical. Furthermore, a pragmatic approach to decision making places the individual at the center of their decision making process, not God. Either Jesus is Lord of all or not Lord at all.
Followers of Christ must look for the fruit of the Spirit when examining the moral character and integrity of a candidate who self-identifies as a Christian. According to Matthew 7:15-20, Christians can discern a person’s integrity by the fruit they bear—good or bad. Paul tells us the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Gal. 5:22-23).Moral excellence is like purified gold—an object of beauty.
A lack of integrity is a moral deficiency, and persons lacking integrity have a tendency to be dishonest, unethical, and unloving. An individual who is morally praiseworthy demonstrates honesty and charity. This person is considered to be a “person of principle.”
There is a popular view that Christian voters should overlook or excuse the poor character or integrity of a candidate on the basis that everyone is a sinner. It is one thing to say “we are all sinners,” but it is entirely another to excuse or overlook poor character and integrity on the basis that “we are all sinners.” Ignoring sinful patterns or dismissing poor character and electing such a candidate is problematic. It stands to reason this candidate will continue to demonstrate the same or even worse integrity once elected. So, character and integrity matter.
You’ve also heard it said, “America is electing a commander in chief, not a pastor or theologian in chief.” No, America is not a theocracy, but ethics do matter when electing government leadership. Contending that America is only electing a “commander in chief” is simplistic. The executive office in America requires more than knowledge of how to defend the nation. Appointing justices to the U.S. Supreme Court is one example.
Political party leaders, and even religious leaders, too often minimize the role of president to “commander in chief.” This is frequently done to provide a justifying reason to convince Christians to vote for ‘their’ candidate who also has poor character or holds unbiblical positions.
All who are born again by the Holy Spirit strive to live a holy life, and it is impossible for them to justify a lack of integrity or unholy living without coming under conviction of the Spirit. God convicts a person of sin for the purpose of restoring fellowship and community with Him. He desires an admission of sinful behavior and a request for forgiveness. The consequence of a Christian (or even a non-Christian) candidate who refuses to confess sin to God or ask God for forgiveness is alienation from God.
Christians who willfully disobey God will remain under the conviction of the Holy Spirit until they repent. God will continue to convict the born-again candidate so that the candidate resembles Jesus more and more, but will eventually deliver the non-believing candidate over to their own selfish, pragmatic ends if they don’t repent (Romans 1:18-32). The result is being subject to the wrath of God.
So, Christ-professing candidates who demonstrate consistent, biblical integrity means they routinely humble themselves in submission to God. Their daily decisions consistently reflect their character or moral code. In humility, they strive to practice what they preach.
Christian theologian, A.W. Tozer, described character as “the excellence of moral beings.” Christianity bases moral character on what the Bible says. So, when a candidate self-identifies as Christian, most Christian voters assume the candidate is guided by Scripture. If the candidate’s behavior demonstrates significant variation from Scripture, then Christian voters rightly wonder or even doubt the sincerity of that candidate.
Is it a requirement for the President of the United States to be a Christian? No. Not according to Article VI of the Constitution, but it is permissible and even ideal. Why? Because America is founded upon biblical principles. The Declaration of Independence describes these principles as “the laws of nature and of nature’s God.”
If the president does not embrace biblical principles, then America, as a nation, will continue to reflect ungodliness. What’s the result? The fruit of an unjust nation is the seedbed for the wrath of God. Furthermore, leaders of the United States who work in concert with global leaders to govern in opposition to these biblical principles are inviting curses upon themselves and America, not blessings.