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 touched on various themes: foreign affairs with Britain, preventing further secession, compensated emancipation, colonization, the retirement of General 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 its 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 was 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 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 the Congress's 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 in order 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 the body to do what it should, not what it wants to do."   1 Corinthians 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 as would be expected of elected officials to their constituency.

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.  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."  Hebrews 12:1

Like ripples in a pond, when a stone has been cast, that expands out until they reach the far shore, so did Lincoln's decisions affect 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.

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