Joe Biden is expected to announce his running mate this week. Reportedly, Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) and Susan Rice, national security advisor to President Obama, are the top contenders. Either would make history as the first Black woman to be a vice-presidential candidate for a major party.
Biden is reportedly also considering Rep. Karen Bass of California, Rep. Val Demings of Florida, Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, and Sen. Tammy Duckworth of Illinois.
Four factors seem to be at work:
- Age: Biden would be the oldest president ever elected if he wins in November, so some want him to choose a running mate who is younger and can be the future of the party.
- Balance: some perceive Biden to be too moderate for the progressive wing of the party and want him to select a nominee that will excite these voters.
- Demographics: some want him to select a Black candidate to gain support among Black voters.
- Politics: as one politics professor notes, “the vice-presidential candidate can help a little or hurt a lot.” He would advise candidates, “Above all, do no harm.”
My purpose this morning is not to help Mr. Biden make his decision, but rather to discuss our reaction once he makes it.
Where are you on this spectrum?
You are likely approaching the upcoming election in one of eight ways on a political spectrum from “right” to “left.”
- You believe Joe Biden is wrong for America and will vote for his opponent.
- You believe Donald Trump is right for America and will vote for him.
- You believe Republican policies—such as the party’s positions on abortion and religious liberty—are right and will therefore vote for Donald Trump despite personal misgivings about him.
- You support Republican policies but believe Donald Trump is so wrong for America that you cannot vote for him. (This is the “Never Trump” movement.) You will not vote at all, or you will cast your ballot for Mr. Biden or for a third candidate.
- You support Democratic policies but believe Joe Biden is so wrong for American that you cannot vote for him. You will not vote at all, or you will cast your ballot for Mr. Trump or for a third candidate. (I am not seeing this position reflected in the present campaign, but I include it as a logical possibility.)
- You support Democratic policies and will vote for Joe Biden despite personal misgivings about him.
- You believe Joe Biden is right for America and will vote for him.
- You believe Donald Trump is wrong for America and will vote for his opponent.
You may be in several camps at once (1 and 2, 1 and 3, 7 and 8, 6 and 8, for example). But note: none of these positions is affected by Mr. Biden’s nominee for vice president. It’s hard to imagine that he would choose someone who would change your vote, either for him or against him.
Three commitments we owe the nominee
Whatever our position, we owe Mr. Biden’s running mate three biblical commitments. They are especially important to remember if we are in the first five categories.
We are instructed: “Let your speech always be gracious” (Colossians 4:6). By contrast, we are also commanded: “Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking” (Ephesians 5:4). We must not say about people what we would not say to them (cf. Matthew 18:15), whether on social media or in any other context.
Scripture adds: “Be not rash with your mouth, nor let your heart be hasty to utter a word before God, for God is in heaven and you are on earth. Therefore let your words be few” (Ecclesiastes 5:2). I am reminded of the maxim attributed to George Washington: “What does not need to be said, needs not to be said.”
Do this even—and especially—if the nominee expresses positions that you believe to be unbiblical. Scripture is clear: “Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless” (1 Peter 3:9). And remember this about your words: “The tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great things. How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire!” (James 3:5).
Paul admonished us: “I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions” (1 Timothy 2:1–2, my emphasis). There are no contingencies or exceptions here.
Three: Cultural engagement
Being gracious to political leaders and praying for them does not mean that we shrink from speaking biblical truth to the issues we face. On the contrary, we are to be ready “always” to declare and defend our faith (1 Peter 3:15). Withdrawing from our fallen world keeps our salt in the saltshaker and our light under a basket (Matthew 5:13–16).
We should be grateful for those who are willing to serve as political candidates and leaders. In fact, I am convinced that God is calling more Christians into public service than are answering his call. And I believe that each of us has a platform we should use to advance God’s kingdom and the public good (cf. Acts 1:8).
As a result, we need to protect our witness over the next four months so we can glorify God and draw people to him when the election is over.
God’s word notes: “It is out of the abundance of the heart that the mouth speaks” (Luke 6:45 NRSV).
What will your words reveal about your heart today?