Thursday, November 21, 2019

Evolving Lincoln

    The natural process for all living things is to grow.  Growth and change is a normal part of life.  The goal of a Christian is to grow, change, and mature.  We are called to mature and become more like our Master, Jesus Christ.  The Bible describes this process in many passages, "Be not conformed to the image of this world, but be ye transformed, by the renewing of your mind." Ro.12:2   "Follow the Truth at all times...and so become more and more like Christ, who is the Head of His body, the Church."  Eph. 4:15
"Therefore, leaving behind the elementary teachings of Christ let us press on to maturity."  Heb. 6:1
   We see that process of growth and change in the political life of Abraham Lincoln too.  Lincoln's position on the issue of slavery evolved over a long period of time. Early in his political life he opposed slavery on moral grounds, but did not believe the Federal government should force the Southern States to end it. When the Rebel states succeeded from the Union, Lincoln did not require them to abolish slavery as a condition for returning.  For President Lincoln, keeping the Union together took precedent over ending slavery.  Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation only freed slaves in the rebelling states, not the states that had not entered the Confederacy. Later, he even proposed a preposterous plan that would ship the freed slaves off to live in colonies outside of the United States.  Finally, after much debate and soul searching, President Lincoln, the bold leader we admire today stood up, and made the hard, costly, but right decision.  Slavery must end, everywhere, now and forever.  Lincoln's final word to the South was this. You must give up your immoral culture of slavery, and if not willingly, it will be by force of arms decided for you.
    Abraham Lincoln's political platform was far far different at the end of the conflict, then it had been at the beginning of the Civil War.  Thank God he evolved  into the kind of leader that the Country needed.    David said it best like this, "Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me." Ps. 51:10   Lincoln developed into the type of leader who was not afraid, prideful or just too stubborn to make the hard choices, even if it meant admitting he had been wrong.
    All of us will face those type of moral decisions.  Hopefully, as a Christian we will continue to grow and mature.  Hopefully, we can learn to humble ourselves, even as the Spirit of God deals with our hearts."
Lincoln changed.  What he thought was wise policy early in his career, he found to be unacceptable later on.  Lincoln evolved, he matured.  Paul gets to the same point with this verse of Scripture, "When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child, but when I became a man , I put away childish things." 1 Cor. 13:11  Are you willing to change?
    

Friday, November 1, 2019

State of the Union

    On December 3, 1861, President Lincoln made his annual address (at that time just a letter) to Congress. We now, in current times, refer to it as, the President's State of the Union address.  In that address, he touches on various themes: foreign affairs with Britain, preventing further secession, compensated emancipation, colonization, the retirement of Gen. Winfield Scott, among other topics.  Lincoln's letter dealt with the most pressing concerns weighing on Congress, and of course the whole Nation.  However, it was the secession of the Southern states, and the war that followed (already in it's 8th month), that were at the forefront of the Country's psyche.  Many politicians from the North, and the common people alike, were not convinced of the prudence for a struggle to preserve the Union, or the immediate need to abolish slavery.  They debated whether it was worth the terrible imagined cost in both blood and resources.
    Of the many convincing statements contained in his letter to Congress, it is the closing of the address that
I find the most moving, if not prophetic, "The struggle of today is not altogether for today; but it is for a vast future also. With a reliance on Providence all the more firm and earnest, let us proceed in the great task which events have devolved upon us."   Abraham Lincoln
  Lincoln perceived better than most, that the issues to be resolved, either by victory or defeat, would change the course of history in America. Which it did.
    He saw it as a President's responsibility and Congresses obligation to posterity, to make the hard decisions now, and not conveniently pass them off to some future generation.  It was for them, now, to settle these grave issues, and not another Administration.  I suppose every politician prefers the easy road, to enact the popular policies, but some decisions cannot be ignored, even when it means a difficult road ahead.  Lincoln chose the hard road. The right road, for his time, as well as ours.
    Paul in his epistle to the church in Corinth, compares the Christians life to an Olympic runner preparing for a race.  "To win the contest an athlete must deny himself those things which would keep him from doing his best...training the body to do what it should, not what it wants to do."   1 Cor. 9:24-27
  Doing the right things, even when it might hurt, and pushing through the pain, with a future goal in mind, is what Paul and Lincoln were talking about.  From the Word of God's point of view: self-denial, not giving into self-interest, and not choosing the easy path, is as much the responsibility of the Believer, than what would be expected of any elected officials to their public.
  Lincoln saw the importance of winning the war, ending slavery, and keeping the Union undivided, as his God given assignment.  It was his race to run, not some future leader, it was his.  I am reminded of what was said in the Epistle to the Hebrews, "Since we have such a huge crowd of witnesses watching us, let us strip off the things that hold us back...and let us run the particular race God has set before us."  Heb. 12:1
  Like ripples in a pond, when a stone has been cast in, that expands out until they reach the far shore, so did Lincoln's decisions effect us even 150 years later.  May our individual part in the Christian race make a difference in our world today, and a positive impact for Christ in generations to come.