“And why not do evil that good may come?”
— Romans 3:8a
Or, to put it another way, “Do the ends justify the means?”
Or, to put it in more biblical terms, “Should we compromise what we know is true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, excellent, and worthy of praise if we think the result may be something good?”
Or, to be more specific, “Should we support a morally repugnant and unqualified person if we suspect some good may result from it?”
What is a Christian to do if casting a particular vote requires not just holding one’s nose but also closing one’s ears and covering one’s eyes and hurting one’s sisters and further fracturing relationships between races and violating other principles of Scripture related to keeping counsel of fools or hating our enemies? There are Supreme Court justices at stake, after all.
Perhaps there are better things than winning. Like an appeal to a good conscience before God (1 Pet. 3:21).
God used King David, an adulterer. (And, if we’re factoring in one’s views of abortion, also a murderer, by the way.) This is undoubtedly true. But the reality that God can use anybody and anything is not itself a commendation of endorsing anybody and anything. Biblically speaking, the truth is that the ends do not justify the means.
Let’s think about how the whole king of Israel thing happened. The people of God demanded a king (1 Samuel 8). A political messiah. Someone to solve their problems and mete out justice. Why did they do this? Fear, mainly. Envy of other nations, also. God gave them what they wanted. He can use anybody. But he makes it clear that this desire is not godly. It’s not always a good thing when God “gives us what we want.” It’s not always a good thing to get what we want, even if our motives are sincere. No, it’s never a good thing to compromise godliness and cast our lots with evil even if we suspect something good may result. Sometimes the worst thing that can happen to us is for God to give us what we want. “Obey the voice of the people in all that they say to you, for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected me from being king over them” (1 Samuel 8:7).
Evangelicals—ok, let’s be more specific: “old guard,” mostly white evangelicals—stand at a great precipice. They see the kingdoms of the world and they are afraid. They fear losing power. They fear losing control. They fear for their children’s safety and the future of their nation. They mostly desire something good. And here stands someone evil promising it to them. Just bow down a little bit. It’s not the end of the world. Everybody makes compromises. God can use anything.
God is sovereign over all. He appoints kings and princes. He rules over the rise of nations. And also the falls. God is even sovereign over the Devil! He is sovereign over the installation of wicked rulers. But he usually allows this to bring judgment, not peace.
Or maybe the position is not so grand. Maybe it’s humble, and we are just tired and hungry. We are starving for something good. In our anxious and famished state, the soup seems more immediately gratifying than the birthright.
In Romans 3:8, Paul addresses an accusation against him: “And why not do evil that good may come?” He calls this slander. And he says it leads to condemnation. Why? Not simply because it offends him. But because it offends the gospel and its divine Author.
If we truly trusted the sovereign Lord of all who can use anything, we would abstain from the endorsement of the morally disqualified—no matter their political party and no matter their promises—because God can use a non-vote as easily as a held-nose vote. And which, in fact, would display greater faith? I mean, if we’re using the Bible as our guide, does it appear to be a pattern that the Lord prefers to use the strong and the mighty and the big to accomplish his plans? Or does it seem like he seems to specialize in the people who can’t win?
Given the choice between a vote for a qualified underdog or a conscientious objection and a vote for the kind of leader the Bible calls wicked, which shows a greater faith? Which act of faith would display the clean hands without which no one can see the Lord?
The ends do not justify the means. And in our current quagmire, the ends are not even assured. They are barely even promised. They are more accurately held out as blackmail, as leverage.
Perhaps siding with an evil and hoping for the good is not our only option. Perhaps there is a third way. Maybe it’s siding with the good and trusting God’s best.
Trust in the LORD with all your heart,
and do not lean on your own understanding.
In all your ways acknowledge him,
and he will make straight your paths.
Be not wise in your own eyes;
fear the Lord, and turn away from evil.
It will be healing to your flesh
and refreshment to your bones.
— Proverbs 3:5-8