The separate and recent events involving New York’s Representative Anthony Weiner and the former Governor of California, Arnold Schwarzenegger, should serve as a sobering reminder that some deep introspection regarding the character of those we put into public office is sorely needed. To be sure, there are no perfect individuals available for public office, but simply because we must choose from a field of flawed individuals does not mean that our standards for those we do elect or appoint should be low or non-existent.
The first system of government imposed upon the newly-freed people of Israel was a system of judges (Exodus 18:21-26), which formed an appellate court system in which Moses was the final arbiter of any difficult dispute (much like our Supreme Court today). From this passage of Scripture we may learn some vital lessons regarding those considered fit for public office.
The first standard that must be met for anyone desiring public office is that they be a capable person, which means that they must have already demonstrated a high degree of success in the general aspects of life and/or business. They must therefore be able, savvy and successful in order to be considered, for people of little or no accomplishment need not apply.
Next we come to moral character, where we are told that such candidates must have reverence for God, be deeply trustworthy and have a loathing for dishonest gain. In ancient times, this automatically removed from consideration all those who worshipped any other deity than the Jehovah of Israel; for us today it removes from consideration anyone who does not at a minimum owe allegiance to Judeo-Christian thought and culture (although I personally think this is setting the bar a bit too low). All others need not apply.
Furthermore, such individuals must have already demonstrated a remarkable degree of personal integrity before being considered for a public position, as such positions and the power that comes with them tend to bring temptations of tremendous degree (1 Samuel 2:12-17; 2 Samuel 11:2-5), requiring character already long-forged in the fires of real-world temptation.
Regarding church government, in 1Timothy 3:1-13 and Titus 1:5-10 Paul lays out the requirements for those being considered for leadership positions, and these requirements are essentially the same as those necessary to become an appointed judge at Israel’s beginning. In realistic terms, then, we are not to put anyone in public office that we would not appoint to oversee the business of our church.
We must therefore ask if we would trust any prospective candidate for public office with our church finances, with defining vision and direction for our church, or with counseling those who lack wisdom or who are hurting. If not, such individuals are not worthy of public office, for public office-holders must simply be the very best of us, as public service was designed as a meritocracy in order to function as God intended it to. When we people public office with the lesser and mediocre among us, then, it in effect becomes a mediocracy and ceases to do its people any good whatsoever.
As for our current government officials, we should always be praying for them (1 Timothy 2:1,2). Regarding Governor Schwarzenegger and Representative Weiner, we should not kick them when they are down, but rather lift them up in prayer, for they are undoubtedly hurting with the public shame their actions have brought to them and to their unfortunate families, and each of them desperately needs to experience the love and forgiveness of Christ.