Standard-Bearers for Christ

September 7th, 2012

Political season is now upon us. Though the major presidential candidates have been campaigning already for more than a year, the parties’ nominating conventions marked the official start of the general election campaign. A political convention’s most important task is to officially select the party’s nominees for president and vice president. As expected, the Republicans nominated Mitt Romney and Wisconsin Representative Paul Ryan and the Democrats re-nominated President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden.

Standard-Bearers

We often refer to a party’s nominee as its “standard-bearer,” a term for a leader who carries the flag, or standard, on behalf of a larger group. During the Civil War, when fl ags were carried into battle so soldiers could see where they should follow, being the standard-bearer was a heroic and especially dangerous role.

It’s still a difficult role today for party nominees, who face intense scrutiny from the media and the public, who watch and critique a presidential candidate’s every move. Character flaws or embarrassing moments from the past are sure to come to light. And if a candidate makes a gaffe of any kind, the opponent will pounce.

So far during this campaign season, Mitt Romney’s casual statement during a visit to London—he commented on much-publicized problems with providing security prior to the Olympics—was considered an insult to his British hosts. American media commentators scrutinized the statement for days, asking whether the apparent gaffe cast doubt on Romney’s ability to be a global leader.

Likewise, President Obama’s now infamous “you didn’t build that” remarks— intended as a statement that no one in our society fully succeeds without taking advantage of opportunities that others helped create—was viewed by some as hostile to business and quickly became an issue in the campaign.

Taking Up Our Cross

Being a standard-bearer is a burden, but it’s a burden that we carry: We are standard-bearers for Christ. And youth may have already learned that identifying themselves as Christians sometimes invites scrutiny. If a Christian is caught cheating on a test or behaving toward someone in an un-Christian way, observers will judge him or her differently than they would someone who didn’t claim to be Christian. Christians who fail to follow God’s commandments or fail to show Christ’s love leave themselves open to charges of hypocrisy and run the risk of giving people a distorted view of the Christian faith.

Of course, Jesus never claimed that following him would be easy. He instructs his followers to “take up their cross.” But if we’re going to be Christ’s standard-bearers, we must recognize that others are watching us, not just to see if we make mistakes but to see if we will lead by our example, as people who walk the walk and not just talk the talk.

Equally important, we must acknowledge our human imperfections and understand that, as flawed people, we have no right to judge our flawed brothers and sisters, who are equally loved by the God who created all of us. We are called to uphold a higher standard—to be like Jesus. And we must strive to be faithful to this responsibility, setting an example by offering forgiveness, showing mercy, putting others first through service, and practicing unconditional love.


This article is also published as part of LinC, a weekly digital resource for youth small groups and Sunday school classes. The complete study guide can be purchased and downloaded here.

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