Elections can offer a prime opportunity not just to form opinions about candidates, but also to pray deeply about government and leadership. In an age where the communications media often shape the image of a candidate, it may seem difficult to discern the right individual for the job. Even in Biblical times it wasn't always easy to tell who was best.
When God sent the prophet Samuel to anoint one of Jesse's sons to replace King Saul, Samuel thought that Eliab must surely be God's choice. "But the Lord said unto Samuel, Look not on his countenance, or on the height of his stature; because I have refused him: for the Lord seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart." n1 Ultimately, David, the youngest, was anointed and proved to be a great leader.
n1 I Samuel 16:7.
We may not be able to look inside someone's heart, but we can pray for spiritual discernment. Instead of focusing on the personalities involved -- an approach that often degenerates into emotionalism -- we can consider the candidates, not only on the basis of their viewpoint and expertise in areas of concern, but on the basis of the moral and spiritual qualities they express. As Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, explains, "Right thoughts and deeds are the sovereign remedies for all earth's woe." n2
n2 The First Church of Christ, Scientist, and Miscellany, p. 283.
An infallible basis for "right thoughts and deeds" is clearly given in Christ Jesus' Sermon on the Mount. n3 The Beatitudes in particular describe many of the qualities one would want in a leader: meekness, mercifulness, purity of heart, willingness to be a peace-maker. n4 The Master himself illustrated perfect obedience to God's direction and unlimited love for others.
n3 See Matthew, chaps. 5-7.
n4 See Matthew 5:3-12.
No candidate could ever even approach Jesus' example. But we can look for the individual having the Christliness to grapple with complex problems in a humanitarian way.
By treating the choice of a leader as an exercise in the discernment of God-like qualities instead of as a choice between human personalities, we get a differnet view of the election and also of those around us. We begin to see evidence of spirituality and of courage and honesty where before we may not have perceived these qualities. Whenever an individual chooses the ethical over the unethical, the brave over the cowardly, the wise over the foolish, he is -- to some extent at least -- shoosing the spiritual route of obedience to devine law. This outlook can only lead to the "right thoughts and deeds" that are "remedies for all earth's woe."
We ourselves can strive to express the qualities we expect in our government officials. This not only gives us a better understanding of the challenges they face. It also provides grass-roots support for right behavior. The moral example of one's consituents can do much to strengthen -- or weaken -- one's resistance to temptation.
There are other ways we can support an election through prayer. If racism is a factor, we can pray to express more brotherly love ourselves and to see evidence of it around us. We can know that backbiting and criticism are no part of anyone's true, spiritual nature. Nor is ruthless competition evidence of Christliness. Removing these and similar flaws from our thinking abouth the candidates and our fellow citizens will help to keep the election climate pure for all concerned. The more we can focus on God-derived qualities instead of charisma, the easier it will be to perceive the right candidate.
While it's clear that no choice or candidate is ever going to be perfect, listening for God's guidance and doing our best to exercise spiritual discernmant shuld enable us to make the nearest right choice in each case. Praying, and then acting to the highest level of our understanding, will bless our own lives and those of our fellow citizens. DAILY BIBLE VERSE Do ye look on things after the outward appearance? II Corinthians 10:7