Character matters in public leadership

This morning I was thinking about our current political moment and about the nation’s indiffernce to moral character in public leadership. I was reminded of a short essay that John Piper wrote nearly twenty years ago during the impeachment scandal. The essay was such a beacon of prophetic moral clarity then. I think it still is now. And it is relevant to our current moment. 

Piper gives six reasons why he believed that the President of the United States should resign. Each reason has to do with moral character and how the lack of it can make a man unfit for office. Piper concludes with this:

 The president should have known that the stakes of his moral life are this high, and added that to his disincentive to gratify himself at the expense of the nation. This reckless, foolish and faithless behavior unfits a man to be a world leader in this moral context.

It is hard to believe that it has been almost twenty years since this was written, but it is nonetheless relevant. When all of this was unfolding, the President’s approval rating among the American people remained very high, and of course he never resigned. The nation decided that these moral failings didn’t matter. I guess it should be no surprise that so many Americans have decided that such failings do not matter now either.

Our current political alternatives didn’t arise ex nihilo. There’s a long backstory. The culture we make is the culture we must live in. And it is an inescapable conclusion that our alterntives are to some extent a reflection of us as a people. 

And that is why it is all the more important for Christians to be salt and light. 

“Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.” -Matthew 5:16

“Walk as children of Light (for the fruit of the Light consists in all goodness and righteousness and truth), trying to learn what is pleasing to the Lord. Do not participate in the unfruitful deeds of darkness, but instead even expose them.” -Ephesians 5:8-11 

Our job isn’t to sit on the side cursing the darkness. We are light. We bear witness to a kingdom that is not of this world—to a Redeemer King who even now is seated at the right hand of God and who will appear again in judgment. This reality has implications for all of life, including the stewardship He’s given us as citizens of a democratic republic. 

Our alternatives may be a reflection of our culture, but Christians cannot give the impression that they are a faithful representation of us or of the Kingdom we represent. Clarity on this point may be difficult, but it is nonetheless necessary. To obscure this point is to cover up everything that matters. And that we cannot do.

5 Responses to Character matters in public leadership

  1. Barbara Jackson July 30, 2016 at 12:24 pm #

    Thank you for your steadfastness in this.

  2. Christiane Smith July 31, 2016 at 8:04 pm #

    loved the tweet you showed from Peter Wehner, this:
    “Wouldn’t it be an act of justice if Trump’s defeated by the grace/eloquence of a lovely, soft-spoken patriotic American Muslim couple?”

    Mr. T has just met his match. This may be the one time T’s supporters will have to say SOMETHING, ANYTHING to reassure us that they still have human hearts.

    A low point? Goodness. How low can this man go? God have mercy.

    • Brian Holland July 31, 2016 at 11:17 pm #

      What about Hillary accusing the Benghazi families of lying? I’d say that’s the lowest of all time!

  3. Curt Day August 2, 2016 at 8:02 am #

    While reflecting the Kingdom rather than being molded by the culture, we can never afford to forget that our prayer is always the one of the publican, not the pharisee.

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