WITH MALICE TOWARD NONE... – A FOURTH OF JULY REFLECTION & CHALLENGE
Our society has seen over 240 Fourths of July come and go since our forebears gathered to approve the Declaration of Independence, and every day I watch the news in print, online, or over the air, I cannot help but feel that we are in times where we are looking more at what makes us different than what commonalities we share. We have caucuses and special interest groups in almost all major societal institutions – schools, government, neighborhoods, cities, towns, churches – that unintentionally, I hope, work to attract groups of like characteristics to the point of excluding those who don’t fit our categories.
Young/Old, Racial, Generational, Educational, Economical, Sexual, City/Suburb/Rural, North/South, Atheist/Agnostic/Religious… we all know the list could go and and on. Our political systems trade on this divisive rhetoric, pitting us against one another in such a way that we are allowing this practice to break down what used to be perceived as the strong bonds that added to the fiber of our great land.
President Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address contains what I believe are the most profound words ever spoken by one of our chief executives, words that we can and do forget when we get caught up in the emotions of a given moment. Words I think could truly transform us all if we allowed them to soak into our pores, marinate our hearts, and penetrate our brains. Words I believe with all my heart would have transformed our country and may have kept at bay if not totally eliminated some of our contemporary society’s ails. Words that Jesus Christ himself embodied, even as those of us who are doing our dead-level best to measure up to the holy life to which Christ called us through his life, death, and resurrection often fall short of the same.
What are these words of which I speak?
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.
With malice toward none, with charity for all…We will never know how our country may have fared differently if John Wilkes Booth had not been able to fulfill his assassin’s desire. While it may be a nice little parlor game to play amongst people who show interest in that sort of thing, what is done is done, and there’s no going back.
Mr. Lincoln was never able to carry out his stated objective…but you and I surely can in our own lives. As one reads the entirety of the text of Honest Abe’s address on that March 1865 day, it is evident early and often that this was a man of scripture who drew upon the wisdom of scripture to do his work. Christ’s people – the church (local and universal) – MUST, if ours is to be a faith of integrity, hear, respond, and live out this concept of, “With malice toward none, with charity to all…”
To whom is it that God is calling you to exhibit charity and not malice? We are called to live this life with ringing in our ears the echoes of Christ’s words pleading for his executioners to be forgiven for they did not know what they were doing as the sounds of the nails being driven into our Savior continued.
With malice toward none, with charity for all…
Is there any finer or more appropriate way for us to properly celebrate The Fourth of July Holiday?
Is there any other way to live and call ourselves Christ’s disciples?
Does our country (or any group) really have a future if we live any other way than this?
Grace and Peace,