Only twice in writing this article have I ever come under attack. It happened once when I said something about a dog and once when I made a comment about a politician. Out of more than 900 articles, that’s not a bad record. I guess you could say that most of the time, my articles aren’t controversial. But when those two topics come up, someone is always ready to rise out of the shadows and give you a piece of their mind.

As a citizen of this country, I have deep concerns about the conduct of this year’s presidential candidates. Putting aside all political philosophies, agendas and biases, I think there’s a bigger issue when we can’t tell the difference between a presidential debate and an episode of Jerry Springer. Have we lost the dignity of what the office of the president of the United States represents?

I’ve always been a patriotic person; I grew up in that type of environment. I stand at attention with my hand over my heart as I say the Pledge of Allegiance to the United States. I get emotional when I hear “The Star-Spangled Banner.” I have served our country in the military, and many of my friends have given their lives to protect it. I fly the flag of the United States in front of my house during certain times of the year to demonstrate my patriotism. As I return from working around the world and go through customs, I tell the agent who greets me, “There’s no place like home.”

But I wonder what this generation of young people, the ones looking at the political candidates and watching the debates for the first time, is thinking. Has the race for the American presidency become just another reality show? They can flip through the TV channels and see the same kind of fighting and childish bickering repeated again and again.

As I take these young people overseas on their rite of passage journeys, I have a gauge to help me see how well they are transitioning from childhood into adulthood. Paul told young Timothy that he needed to measure up in five areas of his life. These areas should not only be applied to Timothy, but also to every man and woman who wants to be in leadership. “Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity.” (1 Tim. 4:12).

Paul instructs his student that if you want people to follow you and take you seriously, you need:

1. Adult Speech: No longer do you use the language of your childhood, calling someone names. You use your words to build up, not tear down. “The one whose walk is blameless, who does what is righteous, who speaks the truth from their heart; whose tongue utters no slander, who does no wrong to a neighbor, and casts no slur on others” (Psalm 15:2-3).

2. Adult Conduct: Not only do you talk like an adult, you walk like an adult. The way you behave and treat others will bring about dignity and respect from those who oppose you. “Do to others as you would have them do to you” (Luke 6:31).

3. Adult Love: As adults, we are to take the high road. You must remember lost people are not the enemy; they are the victims of the enemy. Jesus died for every tribe, tongue and nation. And if God so loved the world, you need to follow suit. “But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you” (Luke 6:27).

4. Adult Faithfulness: The word used here describes someone who can be counted on to carry out the task. A leader is not full of over-inflated promises, but is known as a person of action. “Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much” (Luke 16:10).

5. Adult Purity: One of two things control a leader: heart or hormones. A leader who has mastered their hormones will be able to guide from a pure heart. “It is God’s will that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality” (1 Thess. 4:3).

If I can expect this kind of life from a 13-year-old serving with me on the mission field, should I not also expect it from those who are running for the highest office in our land?

I’ve got to run. I can hear the arguments coming my way. And besides, I need to get to my closet to pray for our nation.

What about you?