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A phone call

DALLAS (BP)–I thought I’d do a green column this time. Something about environmental policy and the presidential race. Perhaps comparing the costs of the various global warming “fixes” being proposed by the candidates. I was merrily typing away, hoping to be finished by dinnertime when a phone call changed my plans — and the subject.

As a result of that call, I had to start thinking about sin, guilt and forgiveness — not mine this time, but someone else’s. When I got back to writing, sin was on my mind.

We’ve been considering sin a lot lately in conjunction with the presidential race. A good election verse is Proverbs 29:2: “When the righteous are in authority the people rejoice; but when a wicked man rules, the people groan.”

We quote this on the radio — to motivate people to get involved in the election process, and to help them decide whom to support in the primaries. Most of the primaries are over now, but it’s still worth pondering: how does a principled Christian choose a presidential candidate? As the field narrows and the remaining contenders battle it out, I keep thinking about the righteous and the wicked in connection with the presidential candidates. And it all gets murky.

I have also been reading Romans 3 lately (Verses 9-26). Phrases like “none righteous” and “all have sinned” kind of stick out. They are true of you and me and of all the candidates. Most of the candidates publicly claim Christianity. The saved among them have Christ’s righteousness imputed to them. They are “justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.” But we wonder, which candidates are truly saved? And, would that be the criteria for supporting a candidate if you totally disagree with his or her policy positions? As Christians, we are not required to vote for a Christian, but our Christianity should inform our vote.

To get the best deal under Proverbs 29, we could choose the most righteous candidate. Trouble is, according to Romans 3, “most righteous” isn’t a biblical concept. You either are or you aren’t, based upon your relationship with Christ. My friend Chris uses the term “least worst,” which he defines as the candidate who is closest to being remotely electable, morally biblical, and good on the economy and national security. When my state primary comes along, I’ll be faced with two decisions: Who is the least worst candidate, and can I cast my vote for that person?

What about the wicked man in Proverbs 29:2? We want to avoid electing him. But remember, “all have sinned.” Some sinners are forgiven. Some are not. We don’t always know who. I don’t have much help for you there. In a sense, the election process thrives on sin. Campaigns are hoping to find sin in the other side so they can use it in their campaign speeches and television ads. If they don’t find it, they frequently make it up. Sadly, sin is helpful in winning elections sometimes. We have to swallow some positions we consider “sinful” in our candidates.

Whoever is our next president will be well short of perfect. In the best moments, he or she will soar. But our leader will be wrong sometimes, misguided sometimes, motivated by polls and swayed by mistaken advisors. We probably ought to start praying right now for God’s grace and wisdom for that person. (And, we ought to stay involved to influence the process.)

The phone call that changed my afternoon wasn’t about the election, though. It was about a person who loves God and whom God loves. When you understand and get fed up with your own sin, or the sin in the life of a loved one — when the guilt comes, you pray for mercy. You ask that sin won’t be counted against the sinner. It’s not like in an election where one side sort of hopes the sins of the other candidate ultimately result in his or her defeat. That’s not the way God works with His elect. He sent His Son to experience an excruciating death to pay for our sin. Keep reading Romans 3. God is just. And He is, in His grace, “the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.” He does not offer this gift to nations. The United States does not have eternal life. God reserves that gift for His children. For that I am grateful, as I deal with the election, and the phone call.
Penna Dexter is a board of trustee member with the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, a conservative activist and an announcer on the syndicated radio program “Life on the Line” (information available at www.lifeontheline.com). She currently serves as a consultant for KMA Direct Communications in Plano, Texas, and as a co-host of “Jerry Johnson Live,” a production of Criswell Communications. She formerly was a co-host of Marlin Maddoux’s “Point of View” syndicated radio program.

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  • Penna Dexter