Christians and the General Election: Self-control and Politics

by John M. Thornton, Ph.D., CPA

One thing about the election is certain: Come tomorrow, somebody will win, and someone will lose. And if the political pundits are right, many people will cast their votes against one candidate, rather than for the other. Which means, many voters will not get what they want, even if they win.

James, the brother of Jesus, warned, “What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? You want something but don’t get it.” So while the question on everyone’s mind seems to be, “Who will win the Presidency?,” the real question is, “What will you do if you don’t get what you want?”

Will you respond with “hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions, and envy” (Galatians 5:20-21), the acts of the sinful nature? Or will you respond with “self-control,” the culmination of the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23)?

Self-control is like the skin on the fruit of the Spirit. It holds the whole thing together. Without self-control’s protective coat, the rest of the fruit’s sweet flavor and aroma would fall apart. But with self-control, the fruit of the Spirit bring glory to God.

As a kid, my temper was legendary. I lacked self-control. In fact, it was my weapon of choice. Even though I became a Christian as a young age, I was thin-skinned. And age is no excuse. Through Proverbs (10:11) God warns, “Even a child is known by his actions, by whether his conduct is pure and right.”

So I began to pray for self-control. For like the Apostle Paul, I found “this law at work in me: When I want to do good, evil is right there with me. . . . What a wretched man I am. Who will rescue me from this body of death?” (Romans 7:21,24).

But praise be to God, we who know Christ do not end in defeat Through God’s Spirit, we have been set free. Free to walk in His ways. Free to live the lives God has called us to live. Through God’s Spirit, we can have self-control.

My watershed moment came one night in our family barn, when my cousin shot me with a BB-pellet gun. Reverting to my usual modus operandi, I grabbed a pitchfork and gave chase. In a few seconds, I’d trapped him on a ladder leading up to the barn’s loft and had my chance to even the score. But I didn’t. Instead, I put down my pitchfork and walked away. That night God’s Spirit protected him from my wrath. Self-control had done its work in me.

When this year’s election comes to an end, regardless of who wins or loses, we can claim victory through God’s Spirit and show self-control. Yes, there will be tenuous moments, but put down your pitchfork and claim victory in Christ.

Why? Because “God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. Whoever sows to please their flesh, from the flesh will reap destruction; whoever sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life.” Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.

Read articles in the Christians in the General Election Series:

Love and Politics by Robert Duke, Ph.D.

Joy and Politics by Stephen P. Johnson, DMA

Peace and Politics by Regina Chow Trammel, MSW, LCSW

Patience and Politics by Kenneth L. Waters, Sr., Ph.D.

Kindness and Politics by Pamela Cone, Ph.D., CNS, RN

Goodness and Politics by Robert Duke, Ph.D.

Faithfulness and Politics by Joseph Bentz, Ph.D.

Gentleness and Politics by Roger White, Ed.D.

John Thornton, Ph.D., CPA, is L.P. and Bobbi Leung Chair of Accounting Ethics; and professor and chair of the L.P. and Timothy Leung School of Accounting in the School of Business and Management.