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?"

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