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Leaders and Indiscretions

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BY DAN KIEHL, Senior Pastor of Oakwood Presbyterian Church

     I always have mixed feelings when I watch congressional confirmation hearings for a Supreme Court nominee or a nominee for the President’s cabinet. On the one hand, I am appalled by the sometimes unscrupulous attempts to bring down the nominees by means of slander and innuendo. On the other hand, it is not necessarily a bad thing that our leaders and policy-makers are subjected to rigorous evaluation and character-testing.

     True, there are very few of us who could stand up to a multi-million dollar probe by political operatives and journalists into all of our dark, skeleton-filled closets. And there is no doubt that the motivations of the vast majority of those doing and funding the investigations are wrong. However, it is appropriate for us to be aware of the past crimes, indiscretions, and inappropriate comments of those who would presume to lead us. Then, instead of attacking the potential leader, we should discern his or her attitude and actions regarding the wrong-doing or wrong-thinking. Unlike the world, we must use Biblical standards to judge what they’ve said and done, and then determine whether they have given evidence of repentance.

     The Bible insists that we keep the bar very high in regards to the standards for leadership. This is even more crucial within the Church. Paul says in 1 Timothy 3, “If anyone sets his heart on being an overseer [elder], he desires a noble task. Now the overseer must be above reproach…He must also have a good reputation with outsiders, so that he will not fall into disgrace and into the devil's trap.” James says, “Not many of you should presume to be teachers, my brothers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly.” (James 3:1). Of the fifteen characteristics given for church leaders in 1 Timothy and Titus, thirteen of them pertain to the person’s character; only two are related to their skills. The honor of Christ and the purity of His church is at stake – we must choose and evaluate our leaders carefully.

     While keeping the standards high, Christians must also recognize that we who lead are still sinners and works-in-progress. When you believe that a leader has failed to meet the Biblical standards due to sin or mistakes, you can make a couple of common mistakes – you can just ignore the failures, thereby effectively lowering the standards; or you can take the more popular route and run to all your friends and loved ones to gossip about it. I plead with you, for the sake of Christ and His church, to do what the Lord would have you do: take your concerns to the leader himself. “If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over.” You will probably be surprised by how open that leader will be to your input, and you may just find out that your perceptions are not entirely accurate. The “big picture” is usually much more complex than we think that it is!

     Finally, please pray for those who lead you. If congregations prayed for their leaders as often as they criticized them, the Church would be a much more powerful force in the world. Christ “gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God's people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.” (Ephesians 4:11-13) As the leaders go, so goes the Church!

Politics and Religion

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Senior Pastor Oakwood Presbyterian Church

QUESTION: “Isn’t it wrong for a government official to make decisions for others based upon their religious views?”

ANSWER: This whole issue is much more complex than you are making it out to be. No leader makes decisions or acts contrary to their own religious views. What do you expect a leader to do - make decisions that are contrary to the will of God, as he or she understands it? And if the leader doesn't believe in God, whose will should they try to lead by - their own? The forefathers of our country? The public opinion polls? Where do their ideas and principles come from?

     It helps if we think in terms of "worldviews" instead of "religions." Dr. Armand Nicholi of Harvard University once said, "Whether we realize it or not, all of us possess a worldview. We make one of two basic assumptions: We view the universe as an accident, or we assume an intelligence beyond the universe who gives the universe order and, for some of us, meaning to life." When a person makes a choice between those two assumptions, they lay a foundation for their worldview, and by extension, their views on philosophy, morality, politics, etc. Is killing wrong? In all circumstances? Is there such a thing as a just war? Does life begin at conception? Is there an objective, Divinely-ordained standard for marriage and family, or are these man-made traditions that can be altered? All answers to these kinds of questions will be based upon a person's worldview, and that worldview must encompass both the physical and the metaphysical, the spiritual and the material (even if it denies the existence of anything spiritual). You can't separate a person's "secular" opinions from "religious" opinions - they are all interdependent.

     My point is that "strong religious views" shouldn't disqualify a politician or anyone in public discourse. What's the alternative? Weak religious views? That would be a sign of intellectual laziness...not a characteristic I want in a leader. No religious views? There is no such thing. If a person has committed himself to a worldview that denies or ignores the existence of God, they aren't either secular or uninfluenced by religion. They have a view of the world and spiritual matters that has a huge impact on how they will live their daily lives and how they will govern others. If this is a position they've come to after in-depth study and investigation, then it is a strong religious view, and one that I want to know about as I vote.

     When we vote for our leaders, we should be studying their worldview; assessing their character; measuring their positions and actions against their worldview to see if they are acting with integrity; and then choose a candidate who consistently leads based upon a worldview that most closely reflects our own. Just once I'd love to listen to two presidential candidates have an honest debate about the foundational issues – a worldview debate. There are two kinds of politicians that I won't vote for or trust - those who appear to have a worldview that is too far removed from my own; and those (many) who vote with an eye only to public opinion polls, special interests, or self-interest.

     Don’t let anyone try to convince you that a Christian politician or a Christian voter has to suppress or deny their convictions when it comes to public policy or debate out in the pluralistic marketplace. We live in a time in America where there is a back-lash against some strategic mistakes of the “Christian Right,” as well as an understandable fear of Islamic fundamentalism. As a result, many people want to muzzle anyone who has “religious” views, especially if you feel strongly about them. We must not concede to this mindset. We must show others that everyone has a worldview based on faith in something, and by our words and our works we must show that the Biblical worldview is the right one – the one revealed by the true Creator of the universe and His only-begotten Son, Jesus Christ.

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