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Wednesday Word: Platform or Character?

October 21, 2020 | Jay T. Smith

Platform or Character?

There is an interesting dichotomy in the United States today, especially among Christians. I frequently hear this sentiment today: “Well, I am an ‘issues’ voter, so it really doesn’t matter to me about the person, as long as they support what I support.” Or, “Only one thing really matters to me, and that is where a candidate stands on the ‘pro-life’ issue.” Or, my personal favorite, “God uses broken people like David, and Mary Magdalene, or non-Christians, like Cyrus the Persian, so even if the candidate is imperfect, God will use him (to support my issues).” This Christian goes to church regularly, and will occasionally volunteer to sing on the worship team, work with the youth, and attend prayer breakfasts. For this Christian, the government approval of his or her position validates what they believe. Their focus is on conversion and faithful church attendance. On the other hand, there are some Christians who insist on the “Jesus” way, regardless of what the government supports. They support immigration, and giving asylum to persecuted nationalities. They support racial minorities and will “protest” against the marginalization, mistreatment, and violence aimed at those minorities. They give time, talent, and financial support to the impoverished, abandoned, and damaged of our nation and of our world. They don’t expect the government to do the work of Jesus for them.

The dichotomy is between the justification of personal opinion by cobbling together isolated sections of Scripture and popular, patriotic sentiment, over and often against, a “lived” Christian faith with accurate biblical interpretation and Jesus-infused action. This dichotomy betrays the superficial level of Christian belief and commitment of the American church. Afraid of the future, clinging to the past as if it were “better,” afraid of social change, unwilling to listen to their fellow citizens, and unwilling to allow the deeper claims of Christ to take hold in their lives, many American Christians have become angry, combative, and unkind to those with whom they disagree. It is a crippled faith.

Following Christ

As followers of Christ, we must actually follow Christ. His plan of salvation is that His life is exchanged for our lives (Galatians 2:20) and our lives are now led by His Spirit. We can’t hold Jesus at arm’s length while we force Scripture to justify non-Christlike political behaviors. Jesus was a revolutionary. He stood against the corrupt Judaism of His day and revealed a new way, God’s way, of being human. It seems awkward that the American church has reached this same point. The living church must stand as a prophetic voice, warning the powers that be that the church focused on political power is doomed to be dominated and destroyed by that power. The living church must stand for the truth of what is real and the character that God expects of all human beings. God stands for the foreigner, the stranger, the marginalized, the prisoner, the poverty-stricken, the sinner, the hungry, the thirsty, and the list goes on. Those who would lead us, are those who share those character qualities and commitments.

Yellowstone Theological Institute, as a Christian organization, unequivocally supports the life of the fetus in the womb. It also supports the right to life of the mother of the child. Further, we understand that we live in a world where poor decisions and crimes occur every day, where women find themselves pregnant, not knowing what to do or where to go. Sadly, these women don’t turn to the church, afraid of our judgment and lack of actual care. Church, that is an indictment, a black mark that we must change. If we are pro-life, then we must be all in. We are never called too dispense judgment, only mercy, forgiveness, and love. End of story. That is who we are and who we must be.

Prayerful Discernment

Why would I comment on such a radical position knowing that I may be judged on this assessment?

Christians, we must revisit who we are, and what we stand for. We must understand that the pro-life, pro-choice dichotomy is not as simple as it looks, and it is definitely not the only issue we can consider in an election. When we look at the parties and the candidates we need to understand that platforms are only as good as the character of the candidate. Christians: do your due diligence on the candidates. Research all the sources at your disposal. Look carefully at the platforms of all the parties in an election, but remember, platforms are only as reliable as the character behind them. The character for which a Christian should look are the qualities of a Christ-formed heart, a Spirit-shaped mind, wisdom-laced speech, and a love focused life. They are the ones who focus on your welfare not their own. They are quick to listen but slow to speak. “Lying lips” are nowhere evident and lies are foreign to their hearts and minds (Proverbs 12:22 & Revelation 22:15). Indeed, “you will know them by their fruit” (Matthew 7:15-20). Yet there will be times when Christlike character is not apparent, when the choices seem between Scylla and Charybdis. Only then by prayer, careful discernment, and consideration of all the evidence can we choose what is right and good. A good leader will make-up for a deficient platform. A poor leader will make excuses and blame others for not upholding the right platform.

Jay T. Smith

President and Bridger Professor of Theology & Ethics

Dr. Jay Smith leads the Yellowstone Theological Institute as its president. Dr. Smith has served as minister of youth, music and as senior […]

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