Perhaps you were able to watch last night's 60 minutes presentation about Obama's rise to the presidency? Surely there are questions still hanging out there about what kind of policies this man will initiate, and whether or not the convergence of massive problems will disable him from making significant changes to the landscape. But of one thing I am nearly certain: this is a man with a happy marriage. To watch this couple relate to each other with intelligence, self-deprecation, humility, humor, and healthy banter, is as deeply refreshing as it is rare. As much or more than any speech he's given, the quality of their marriage gives me hope for this administration. Their obvious love for each other makes me think they might believe in family values.
I understand that holding hands and doing the dishes together doesn't assure that one is equipped to lead the free world. But I also believe many American Christians are too quick to assess the quality of a person by the way they answer a pre-posed set of questions, often ignoring the core issues of character. "What do you think of abortion, homosexuality, supporting Israel?" Check. Check. Check. "You're in. You're on God's side."
Really? Ted Haggard, leader of the National Association of Evangelicals, had the right answers to the questions, and sexual promiscuity on the side. I could list a dozen others as well, but it's getting late. Paul mentioned the danger that, when the game is over, some of us might be found to have only been cheerleaders, even though we'd convinced lots of people we were really in the race. That's why Paul took personal discipline and character so seriously. So should the rest of us, both personally and as we anoint leaders.
Then there's the case of Jimmy Carter, who wrote a book challenging Israel's right to treat Palestinians unjustly and was excoriated by many evangelical leaders as a result. Never mind that this man is deeply devoted to Jesus, and committed to using his power and privilege to contribute to peace, justice, and reconciliation in the world. He's (gasp) criticizing Israel. "That's it. Now we know that this man isn't from God." His plea for peace and accountability for all parties has never been more timely, as the middle east heats up yet again, but countless Christians won't listen because he failed some sort of litmus test.
He's in good company. Jesus' treatment of the woman at Simon's party convinced Simon that Jesus couldn't possibly be a prophet. After all, if he was, he'd know who this woman is, what her reputation is, and he wouldn't let her touch him. How convenient for Simon that this woman, bursting into the party, proved Jesus identity as a false prophet once and for all. Our tendency to create a doctrinal checklist and, like Santa, check it once or twice to determine who's naught and who's a heretic is well documented in church history. It's equally well documented how often we destroy people of integrity and elevate charletons. Will we never learn?
As I enter 2009, I'm convinced that, more than anything I do, and certainly more than anything I write or teach publicly, who I am will be the determinant of whether what God has given me to do will have any lasting quality. The being precedes the doing every time, and this rings true for presidents, pastors, parents... really everyone. While I may or may not agree with a certain leader's particular positions or ideologies, if that person exudes an aura of integrity, I'll listen carefully to what they have to say.
I pray that each of us will pursue character and lives of integrity in our private moments, when nobody is looking, because it's those moments that will finally determine our impact and legacy.