Normally, I don’t like to talk about politics in the church. That’s because any given congregation is comprised of people with varying political beliefs, and I don’t believe it is appropriate for a pastor to preach politics from the pulpit. We gather together on Sunday mornings to give praise to God and to learn from him; Sunday gatherings should not be for political manipulation or persuasion.
Sometimes, however, the spheres of politics and religion overlap – perhaps more frequently than we realize. In the past few months, our society has been observing and studying several different Republican candidates for President. Some of these candidates have made a fascinating religious claim: that they have been called by God to run for this office.
I have a personal history with experiencing God’s call on my life. My call to ministry is something I share publicly, and if you don’t know my story, I would be glad to tell you someday. So when I hear other people speaking openly about God calling them to one particular task or another, my ears perk up a little bit. What does that call mean to them? What does it look like? What are the ramifications of that call? How do we know if that call is valid? Are we sure that this is an authentic call?
I do not doubt that God can call individuals to play certain roles in society. Some are called to be teachers; others are called to be construction workers. Some are called to be secretaries; others are called to be plumbers. Some people are called to raise families. Some people are called to exercise leadership. And the way God calls people to these tasks may be quite different from person to person.
Perhaps you simply can’t conceive of doing anything other than this with your life. Perhaps you have an internal sense, a drive within your spirit, that pulls you into this area of work or service. Perhaps other Christians have identified strengths in you, and you have put those gifts to work in a particular field. Maybe you have even heard God’s voice speaking to you, instructing you to move in a certain direction.
Whatever the case may be, I believe firmly that God’s call for individuals (a) must be consistent with the teachings of scripture and (b) must be validated and confirmed by other honest, integrity-filled members of the church. That is, God doesn’t call people to do things that go against what the Bible teaches. And God doesn’t call people to do things that nobody else agrees with. (Even reformers like Martin Luther and D. S. Warner had supporters surrounding them.)
So what are we to make of presidential candidates expressing a call from God to run for this office? My advice is this: Don’t put too much weight on these calls. Scripture teaches about the kind of character required of leaders in the church – and it would be nice if our national leaders had the same character. But the office of President of the United States is a secular office which requires specific political, economic, legislative, and executive skills. (And I should add that it does not require a specific divine call!) We should be cautious of anyone who claims to be called by God to be our President – similar to how a congregation should carefully investigate anyone who expresses a call to serve as its pastor.