As we prepare for mid-term elections in our country, I encourage everyone to vote. But who should you vote for? That is a prayerful decision between you and God. But as you pray, there are seven virtues to look for in a leader. Here’s the first one: moral courage¹.
Moreover, I saw under the sun that in the place of justice, even there was wickedness, and in the place of righteousness, even there was wickedness. I said in my heart, God will judge the righteous and the wicked, for there is a time for every matter and for every work.
Abraham Lincoln was the only American president whose entire presidency was bookended by war. The day he took office, he received a letter from Major Robert Anderson informing him that the garrison at Fort Sumter must be withdrawn or resupplied at the risk of war. Lincoln took the risk. Four years later, Lincoln was assassinated at Ford’s Theatre, just five days after General Robert E. Lee surrendered at Appomattox. Lincoln said, “I claim not to have controlled events, but confess plainly that events have controlled me.”²
Solomon was right in declaring, “there is a time for every matter and for every work.” When we vote for a leader, we don’t know what national challenges they will face, so we must pick men and women who are up for the challenge. This starts with moral courage.
Daniel Taylor and Mark McCloskey wrote, “Moral courage is the ability to do what’s right even when it is deeply unpopular, even dangerous.” I’d also add that it takes moral courage to do something that’s not politically expedient. It involves doing something that has a real possibility of loss. The action may cause you to lose friends, your reputation, or your political position. In extreme cases, you could even lose your freedom or your life. For example, when our founding fathers signed the Declaration of Independence, they put their freedom, wealth, and lives on the line. That’s moral courage! Historian Barbara Tuchman wrote, “Aware of the controlling power of ambition, corruption and emotion, it may be that in search for wiser government we should look for the test of character first. And the test should be moral courage.” The apostle Paul said it like this, “Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be courageous; be strong”
(1 Corinthians 16:13 NIV).
As you prayerfully determine whom to vote for, here’s a question to consider: Which candidate has demonstrated moral courage? Look for a record of moral conviction even when it may have threatened his or her political career. It was said of Nobel Peace Prize winner George Marshall (for whom the post–World War II European Recovery Program, or the Marshall Plan is named), “He told the truth even when it hurt his cause.” Moral courage is an essential ingredient of a godly leader.
Father, help us find leaders who will tell the truth and live out the truth, even when it hurts. Help us find men and women of commitment who will stand by their word without back-peddling or spinning the truth. And help us exhibit moral character so others can see that Jesus has transformed our lives. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
¹ These seven virtues are taken from my book, Picking a President: Seven Characteristics to Evaluate, (Back to the Bible, 2016).
² James M. McPherson, Tried By War: Abraham Lincoln as Commander-In-Chief (New York: Penguin Group, 2008), p. xiii.