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I have been surprised by the number of Christians who have given up on politics this year. "I don't like either candidate, so I'm staying home," some say.

I get fed up with the vain posturing and empty promises, too. But not voting is not an option—it's both our civic and sacred duty. Voting is required of us as good citizens and as God's agents for appointing leaders.

How do we go about choosing the best candidates? Not by pulling a partisan lever—that's knee-jerk ideology. Christians live instead by revealed truth, never captive to any party. Thus, the best place to go for wisdom is not the candidates' websites, but the Bible.

Moses' father-in-law, Jethro, advised him to appoint as rulers "able men" who "fear God, men who are trustworthy and who hate a bribe." The standard is competence and integrity. Later, God ordered Samuel to pick Saul, who "shall save my people from the hand of the Philistines." This passage reminds us of Paul's teaching in Romans: Government's role is to wield the sword to preserve order and restrain evil. So we should seek leaders best able to do that and to pursue justice.

Today, God no longer chooses our leaders directly (although some of us wish he did, if only to spare us the years-long political campaigns). We live in a democracy, so God entrusts to us the job of choosing leaders he will anoint. (Deuteronomy 1:12–13 shows us that democratic principles go directly back to the Old Testament.) Like Samuel, we are commissioned to choose leaders of competence, virtue, and character. That's why not voting or rejecting candidates because they are not perfect on some biblical or political score sheet is a dereliction of our trust.

So is voting for a candidate simply because he is a Christian—startling ...

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October 2008

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