Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Hating Heroes, Its Bound to Happen, Pt. 3

Yesterday I declared that Abraham Lincoln was a hero - a man used by God to end slavery. His calling and destiny touched me deeply, and I shared that I wept as I read his First Inaugural Address.

As a Christ-follower, I weep more at the Second. It is so beautiful, so full of wisdom and care for the vanquished that I am astonished at it.

Lincoln did not promote hate for his enemies. He promoted reconciliation, again and again.

Here's a story that illustrates his character:

After Richmond fell, Lincoln went down to find General George Picket, C.S.A., who was his old friend in better days and found him absent (understandably), but his wife, carrying Picket's infant boy, answered the door. Finding a stranger at her door, who admitted to being Abraham Lincoln, she froze in amazement. It was quite a shock.

But when her son reached for Lincoln, he took the babe in his arms, and for this, received a wet kiss.

Lincoln said playfully, "Tell your father, the rascal, that I forgive him for the sake of that kiss and those bright eyes."

[Edit: the story has been wrongly attributed to Lincoln's encounter with the wife of Jefferson Davis by Dr. James Kennedy; an easy error to make in my opinion. Read source in entirety here, scroll down]

Jesus tells us to love our enemies. Lincoln did that.

Jesus tells us to forgive and trust God as a righteous judge. Lincoln did that.

Yet online you will find men saying he wasn't a Christian because he was not a member of a particular denomination. Well, frankly, that was like Jesus too. Jesus was not interested in puffing up the pride of men in their theological stances, but in changing their hearts to "Love God with all their heart, mind, soul and strength" and "to love their neighbor as themselves."

Lincoln said if he ever found just those two commandments of Christ inscribed in a church, foregoing all other distinctives, he would "join with all my heart and all my soul."

Lincoln did the scariest things to preserve the Union. He broke the law -and he was a lawyer.

But also like Christ, he knew the law existed to protect and serve the people. His complete lack of desire for revenge, and desire only to restore the Union gives validity to his temporary use of extreme powers during a rebellion against those who defended slavery and demanded autonomy - demanding their own freedom while denying it to their neighbors. For this action, they wanted to kill him. And that was like Christ as well.

I believe Lincoln went through a process of placing his hope in God and in His Son. He changed from trying to reason with men to trusting only "our Heavenly Father." Here's his Second Inaugural Address in its entirety. I've highlighted every scriptural inference and direct quote.

"At this second appearing to take the oath of the Presidential office there is less occasion for an extended address than there was at the first. Then a statement somewhat in detail of a course to be pursued seemed fitting and proper. Now, at the expiration of four years, during which public declarations have been constantly called forth on every point and phase of the great contest which still absorbs the attention and engrosses the energies of the nation, little that is new could be presented. The progress of our arms, upon which all else chiefly depends, is as well known to the public as to myself, and it is, I trust, reasonably satisfactory and encouraging to all. With high hope for the future, no prediction in regard to it is ventured.

On the occasion corresponding to this four years ago all thoughts were anxiously directed to an impending civil war. All dreaded it, all sought to avert it. While the inaugural address was being delivered from this place, devoted altogether to saving the Union without war, urgent agents were in the city seeking to destroy it without war—seeking to dissolve the Union and divide effects by negotiation. Both parties deprecated war, but one of them would make war rather than let the nation survive, and the other would accept war rather than let it perish, and the war came.

One-eighth of the whole population were colored slaves, not distributed generally over the Union, but localized in the southern part of it. These slaves constituted a peculiar and powerful interest. All knew that this interest was somehow the cause of the war. To strengthen, perpetuate, and extend this interest was the object for which the insurgents would rend the Union even by war, while the Government claimed no right to do more than to restrict the territorial enlargement of it. Neither party expected for the war the magnitude or the duration which it has already attained. Neither anticipated that the cause of the conflict might cease with or even before the conflict itself should cease. Each looked for an easier triumph, and a result less fundamental and astounding. Both read the same Bible and pray to the same God, and each invokes His aid against the other. It may seem strange that any men should dare to ask a just God's assistance in wringing their bread from the sweat of other men's faces, but let us judge not, that we be not judged. The prayers of both could not be answered. That of neither has been answered fully. The Almighty has His own purposes.

"Woe unto the world because of offenses; for it must needs be that offenses come, but woe to that man by whom the offense cometh." If we shall suppose that American slavery is one of those offenses which, in the providence of God, must needs come, but which, having continued through His appointed time, He now wills to remove, and that He gives to both North and South this terrible war as the woe due to those by whom the offense came, shall we discern therein any departure from those divine attributes which the believers in a living God always ascribe to Him? Fondly do we hope, fervently do we pray, that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away. Yet, if God wills that it continue until all the wealth piled by the bondsman's two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said "the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether."

With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation's wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.
I have never seen a man on the edge of victory quote that much scripture, appealing to the Christian worldview and refer to the Lord as a righteous judge utterly unprompted unless he was confident in Him and trusted Him.

Lincoln has been outed by his own words, mere weeks before his assassination on Good Friday.

And I am not alone in that assessment.

"That's all I need to say 'bout that."

1 comment:

rolandmann said...

He was NEVER President of your home state of Mississippi...did ya know that? :)

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