I lie, fornicate, abuse authority, wrongfully cast blame on others, and betray my wife, but you can count on me. Such is the assertion of many contemporary politicians after confessing to some horrendous conduct, normally sexual in nature. These people routinely attempt to make a case for remaining in office in spite of their deplorable behavior. They usually assure us that, while they have exercised “poor judgment” in their private life, their ability to lead effectively and represent impartially is unaffected. In essence, this point of view maintains that a man can exhibit incredible lapses in regard to moral decisions and activities, but is able to maintain a standard of excellence in the exercise of his political responsibilities.
I may be driven by carnal desires in my private affairs (no pun intended), but I have the soul of a servant when it comes to my performance in office. The reason politicians are able to make such claims and do it in all seriousness with the expectation of prevailing is because they enjoy considerable support from their constituents and members of the media. Repeatedly, reporters and commentators explain that a man’s “private life” is really none of our business. He should be judged, they insist, by his public record, not according to his displays of sexual perversion, infidelity, or dishonesty. Not surprisingly, such backing ordinarily comes from those who share the political perspective of the offender.
This viewpoint is entirely contrary to the teaching of Scripture. Even though these politicians and their supporters do not recognize the authority of the Bible, God’s Standard remains binding and it is by this specification that we should reach our conclusions concerning the relationship between the discernment a man demonstrates in private and his ability to serve honorably in public.
The Bible teaches that man has a decision-making center, which is the heart. This term refers to the mind or that element of our makeup in which and by which we conceive our thoughts. Those thoughts or decisions, in turn, are the basis for our choices and actions—our conduct, in other words. God’s Word does not distinguish between the private and the public when it comes to a man’s morality. While a man is certainly able to behave differently according to circumstances, he has only one moral center from which his values come. Therefore, whether a man is making those private choices or is engaged in activity open for analysis, his morality is one.
It is not possible for a man to compartmentalize his judgment so that he operates in private according to one set of ethics and in public according to another set of ethics. If he exercises deplorable judgment in regard to his hidden conduct, he cannot claim that he has a different resource of judgment for those aspects of his life that may be scrutinized by others.
That a man would make argument outlined above in order to preserve his position is bad enough, but for others to voice approval of his claim to be capable and trustworthy in public in spite of a record of private immorality is much worse. This support is what allows a man who has been exposed as an adulterer, a thief, a liar, or an abuser of some type to remain in office. Many of our citizens have accepted the validity of this assertion of compartmentalization from those who have held some of our highest offices, but have exhibited colossal moral failures.
A man should be judged by all aspects of his life. Our opinions of his effectiveness and trustworthiness must take into account everything he says and does, not simply the examples he himself permits us to examine. Throughout the Bible, we are warned about the nature of the human heart prior to the regeneration accomplished by the Holy Spirit. There are dozens of verses just in the book of Proverbs, for example, that teach us that the heart is the seat of morality and should, therefore, be guarded and filled with the righteous law of God (cf. Pro. 3:1-4; 4:20-23; 6:12-14; 6:20-24; etc.).
In my opinion, if a judgment is to be made regarding a man’s reliability, then it should be made by taking into account that which occurs in private because that is when a man will be less likely to create a façade and will, therefore, show his true character. Consequently, if a man is found to be morally upright in his private life, there is good reason to extend trust and confidence to him in regard to his public service. On the other hand, if private conduct characterized by moral failure is revealed, it is illogical to trust the man to behave honorably and selflessly as he carries out his public obligations.