Thursday, October 31, 2019

Blood and Treasure


     It is a well known fact by those who study the main characters of the Civil War, how brilliant an academic scholar Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain was.  History also tells of his military brilliance during the war.    We can read of his bravery and leadership on the battlefield, which are well documented, especially at Gettysburg.  But what can be over-looked, are some of the personal sacrifices he made before his first taste of combat.  Before Colonel Chamberlain was inspiring young soldiers in his regiment to remember their duty to their Army, Professor Chamberlain was inspiring young students to remember their duty to their Country.    He spoke freely and often of his patriotic convictions to his class, and even wrote to the Governor of Maine these strong words, "I fear this war, so costly of blood and treasure, will not cease until men of the North are willing to leave good positions, and sacrifice the dearest of personal interests, to rescue our country from desolation, and defend the national interest against treachery."

What an incredible paragraph of prose. Chamberlain with a few short lines, could sum up what it would take to win that terrible war.  He chose words like: "Until" "Willing" "Leave" "Sacrifice."  These are the words used when an action is required or a decision must be made.  They are words normally used when a person is not compelled by another, but decides of their own free will.  Chamberlain goes even further in his letter to qualify what is needed, "Willing to leave good positions" and "Sacrifice the dearest personal interests."  To win this unprecedented war, on our own soil, with brother against brother, fighting to save an enslaved people whom they had never met, would be costly.  To win it would mean a willingness to love others, more than themselves, a willing sacrifice of position, property, peacefulness and personal protection.  Our mission for the Kingdom of God requires the same commitment.

The examples of men and women recorded in Scripture who willingly left all and sacrificed positions of power, privilege, and possessions to follow God would fill bookshelves.
       Moses- "Choosing rather to endure ill-treatment with the people of God then enjoy the passing pleasures of sin for a season."  Hebrews 11:25
       Ruth- "Where you go, I will go, where you live, I will live, and your people will be my people, your God will be my God."  Ruth 1:16
       Daniel- "But Daniel made up his mind not to defile himself with the king's choice food."  
Daniel 1:8
       Matthew- "And Jesus said to him, 'Follow me' and he left everything behind, and began to follow Him."  Luke 5:27
       Peter- "Behold we have left everything and followed You." " We have left our homes and followed You." Mark. 10:28  Luke 18:28
       Paul- "What ever I once thought very worthwhile, I now have thrown away, so I can put my hope and trust in Christ alone."  Philippians 3:7

What are you and I, willing to sacrifice for His Cause?  The Bible exhorts Christians, "Count the Cost," of our commitment to follow Christ.  This urgent call to for us to fulfill our duty, comes not from a patriotic college professor, but the Commander in Chief of Heaven Himself.

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Unlikely Heroes

   The Civil War produced many unlikely heroes from the most unlikely backgrounds.  One of those was Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain. 
 Encouraged by his mother to become a preacher, while his father desired him to pursue a military career, Joshua instead became a teacher at Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Maine.  Even though he struggled with a speech impediment, he eventually became a professor of rhetoric and was fluent in nine other languages besides English.  Although he did not want a military career, he believed the country needed to be supported against the Confederacy.  Therefore, he surrendered to the convictions of his heart.  Granted a leave of absence to further his studies abroad, and unbeknownst to the college, Joshua instead enlisted in the 20th Maine Regiment as a Lieutenant Colonel.  He had been offered a higher rank, but he declined, saying he preferred, "to start a little lower and learn the business first." 

During the war, Chamberlain played a key role in two important and significant events on the second day of the Battle of Gettysburg. Chamberlain was positioned on the Union Army's extreme left, on a small hill called the Little Round top, weakly defended by less than 400 men of the 20th Maine.  Under assault by five Confederate Regiments, Colonel Chamberlain ordered the most brave and extraordinary maneuver.  He ordered a bayonet charge down the hill straight into the oncoming enemy. It worked!
The Rebels, who did not break and run, were quickly captured.  The Battle for Little Round Top was over, and by most military strategists accounts, it was the turning point for the Union victory at Gettysburg, and to Civil War historians, the determining point of the entire War.  Amazingly, a professor of rhetoric was used to change the course of the war.

The surrender of Robert E. Lee's Army of Northern Virginia at Appomattox Court House was another compelling event in which Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain took part. He had been selected by Union Headquarters to preside over the official surrender of the Confederate troops as they laid down their arms and battle flags.  It was Chamberlain's decision and order, although unpopular, to have his men come to attention and "carry arms" as a sign of respect when the defeated Rebels marched by.  It was a poignant display of honor from one soldier to another.  Some historians believe that small act helped to speed the healing between those who witnessed the moment.  Amazingly, a professor of rhetoric was used to help heal a nation.

History records those moments that changed the course of nations.  Many times it's the small decisions that determine a brighter future.  God uses unlikely, seemingly ill equipped people to mightily impact history.  The Civil War was full of such men and women.  The Bible also records name upon name of such world-changers.  Names like Abraham, Joseph, Moses, David, Elijah, Daniel, and lest we forget, Queen Esther. She is reminded by Mordecai that she had a purpose to fulfill to save her people, "You have come to your royal position for such a time as this." Esther 4:14  She did not neglect her opportunity nor her People nor her Nation.  Remember it was just a small band of uneducated fishermen who, "Turned the world upside down."  Acts 17:6

They, like Joshua Chamberlain, had limited experience in the task that was required; but, they did not let that stop them. What do you think God could do with you and me, if we would just but charge bravely into our next, "for such a time as this" moment?

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Turning Enemies into Friends

    When it became a forgone conclusion that the Civil War would end in a Union victory, leadership in the North began to discuss what the requirements should be for the South's return to the Union.  Many wanted to see all the rebels tried as criminals: politicians, generals and common soldiers alike.  A loud public outcry was calling for the South to pay for years to come, the huge financial cost of the war.  Some angry northerners wanted to confiscate all southern private property and leave the civilian population homeless and broke.  Fortunately for the Country, President Lincoln tempered that sort of extreme outrage and guided the Nation toward a more gracious course.

The War would be won, but the work of rebuilding a divided Nation would take more time, much more.  Four years of Civil War hatred, North toward South and Rebel toward Yankee, definitely would not be healed by such punitive measures.  The President's plans for reconciliation allowed for a full pardon and complete restoration of personal property to all those who had engaged in the Rebellion.  It also made plans for restoration of each of the former Confederate States with the right to renew their own state government elections.  It was an uncommon attitude of grace, forgiveness, and mercy on behalf of the leader of the victorious Union.
Lincoln's benevolent attitude toward his defeated countrymen was revealed in these words, "Do I not destroy my enemies, when I make them my friends?"

His philosophy of compassion toward those who opposed him, is woven throughout the Word of God.
       "Do not repay evil for evil, or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called, that you may receive a blessing."  1 Peter.3:9
       "Do not rejoice when your enemy falls, and let not your heart be glad when he stumbles."  Proverbs 24:17
"You shall not take vengeance, or bear a grudge against the sons of your own people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself."  Leviticus.19:18
      "Have I rejoiced at the destruction of him who hated me, or lifted myself up when evil betook him? No, I have not allowed my mouth to sin, by asking for him to be cursed."  Job 31:29-30

    Abraham Lincoln took the wiser, higher, gentler road when it came to restoring the Union.  He chose to temper his words in a forbearing voice and his policies with kinder actions.  Who knows if those harsher requirements had been laid upon a wounded South, how long healing may have taken.  It is a lesson to be learned from warring neighbors as much as by warring nations.  " Do I not destroy my enemies, when I make them my friends?"