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A Resolution on the Moral Character of Public Officials

In 1998 President Bill Clinton was impeached for lying to a Grand Jury about having oral sex with a White House intern. As a result, the Southern Baptist Convention that same year passed this resolution which all serious followers of Jesus should agree with. Democrat, Republican, or Independent.

WHEREAS, “Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a disgrace to any people” (Proverbs 14:34 NAS); and

WHEREAS, Serious allegations continue to be made about moral and legal misconduct by certain public officials; and

WHEREAS, The Bible calls upon all citizens to submit themselves to their governing authorities as ministers of the Lord (Romans 13:1; 1 Peter 2:13); and

WHEREAS, Scripture further teaches, “Whoever resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God; and they who have opposed will receive condemnation upon themselves” (Romans 13:2); and

WHEREAS, Governing authorities are not themselves exempt from the rule of law and must submit to the nation’s statutes, rather than mocking them (Romans 13:1; 1 Peter 2:14; Proverbs 19:28-29; 2 Samuel 12:7; Mark 6:17-18); and

WHEREAS, Some journalists report that many Americans are willing to excuse or overlook immoral or illegal conduct by unrepentant public officials so long as economic prosperity prevails; and

WHEREAS, Tolerance of serious wrong by leaders sears the conscience of the culture, spawns unrestrained immorality and lawlessness in the society, and surely results in God’s judgment (1 Kings 16:30; Isaiah 5:18-25); and

WHEREAS, Many public officials and candidates deserve our gratitude and support for their consistent moral character and their uncompromising commitment to biblical principles of right and wrong, resulting in blessing upon their people.

Therefore, be it RESOLVED, That we, the messengers to the Southern Baptist Convention, meeting June 9-11, 1998, in Salt Lake City, Utah, affirm that moral character matters to God and should matter to all citizens, especially God’s people, when choosing public leaders; and

Be it further RESOLVED, That we implore our government leaders to live by the highest standards of morality both in their private actions and in their public duties, and thereby serve as models of moral excellence and character; and

Be it further RESOLVED, That we urge all citizens, including those who serve in public office, to submit themselves respectfully to governing authorities and to the rule of law; and

Be it further RESOLVED, That we urge Southern Baptists and other Christians to fulfill their spiritual duty to pray regularly for the leaders of our nation (1 Timothy 2:1-4); and

Be it finally RESOLVED, That we urge all Americans to embrace and act on the conviction that character does count in public office, and to elect those officials and candidates who, although imperfect, demonstrate consistent honesty, moral purity and the highest character.

I've tried like mad to avoid political controversy. But this resolution isn't about politics. It's about how God believes we should think about ourselves, other people, public officials, and what moral standards we should hold them to. I'm certain everyone of you agree with this resolution. The real question is, "What can the average Christian citizen do to hold public officials to these standards?"

I'll offer these suggestions and perhaps you have some of your own.

  1. Do not vote for any political candidate who does not appear to have any interest in living out the biblical expectations for leaders.

Political candidates listen to voters. If you believe a candidate does not live up to biblical standards, but you still vote for them and they win, they've gotten the message loud and clear that issues are more important than character. Better to lose an election than encourage more future immoral behavior.

2. Do not put out yard signs, or have bumper stickers that recommend your friends vote for any political candidate that does not reflect your biblical expectations for leaders.

When I see signs in people's yards who are Christians supporting a candidate who does not even come close to meeting biblical standards, which is true of both likely presidential candidates this year, I'm confused. And I'm sure their non-Christian neighbors as well.

3. Talk to your friends about why godly character should trump issues for followers of Jesus.

You cannot read the gospels and come away with any impression that "the ends justify the means". If we vote for men and women of moral character they will make the right choices on issues that Christians care about. Martin Luther once wisely said, "I'd rather be governed by a wise Turk than a foolish Christian."

4. If no candidate meets biblical qualifications, vote for no one.

If we vote for seriously morally flawed candidates, it simply tells them character is not important. And it emboldens future candidates to act the same way. But if morally flawed people do not win, then the message is, "Do not put up morally flawed candidates in the future if you want my vote". Take the long view.

"But Clare God used Nebuchadnezzar an evil man." Yes, Daniel served immoral kings because God in his infinite wisdom appointed them to be kings. But I cannot imagine Daniel would have ever voted for Nebuchadnezzar! And it wasn't until the end of Nebuchadnezzar's life that he became a believer in God. But we have two candidates this year who claim to be Christians, so this passage applies to them;

"But now I am writing to you that you must not associate with anyone who claims to be a brother or sister but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or slanderer, a drunkard or swindler. Do not even eat with such people." -I Corinthians 5:11

True Christians should always move toward leaders who live out truth, justice, kindness and competence. Here's an idea for a bumper sticker: MUSA Make Unkindness Shameful Again.

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