How to Heal a Nation: Abraham Lincoln and Jesus Christ
Psalm 147:3 “The Lord heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.”
In the 1950’s, over 40,000 American soldiers died in the Korean War. In the late 1960’s, over 58,000 American soldiers were killed in Vietnam. From 1914-1918, over 116,000 Americans died in World War I. From 1939-1945, over 400,000 American soldiers dies in World War II. There has been much loss of young American lives around the globe, on foreign soil, to defend the rights of people to be free.
Yet the greatest loss of American soldiers’ lives didn’t happen on foreign soil. From 1861-1865, over 600,000 soldiers died in America’s Civil War. It wasn’t until the Vietnam War that historians could say that the number of American soldiers killed in foreign wars exceeded those killed in our Civil War. America always knew the enemy – any government that took away men’s inalienable right from God to be free.
It was no different In the Civil War. President Abraham Lincoln ignited the war with his order to blockade the Confederate seaports, establishing a clear separation between the Union North and the Confederate South. Why? Because he knew that enslaving men and women based on the color of their skin was inhumane and violated everything America was founded on. As another former US President said: “The same revolutionary beliefs for which our forebears fought are still at issue around the globe—the belief that the rights of man come not from the generosity of the state, but from the hand of God.” (JFK).
As the Civil War came to an end, President Abraham Lincoln was set to make his inaugural address. The country was completely divided, as eleven Southern states wanted to separate from the Union. Why? South Carolina, the first to declare their plan to secede, made it clear that the reason for secession was the desire to preserve the racist practice of slavery. The declaration from South Carolina referred specifically to the election of Abraham Lincoln, stating that his “opinions and purposes are hostile to slavery.”
When Lincoln delivered his second inaugural address on March 4, 1865, with victory over the South and the secessionists complete, the Union leaders were sure they were going to hear a speech about victory over the enemy, a time to be celebrating the defeat of slavery and the triumph of liberty. But Lincoln’s objective was not to further divide the country by speaking of the Union defeating the South. His goal was to start the healing process that the deadliest war in American history had wrought within America. He had no interest in proclaiming who was right versus who was wrong. His interest was in healing America.
In the second shortest inaugural speech in US history (less than 700 words), Lincoln turned to the Bible to describe not only mankind’s insatiable tendency toward sin against each other but also Jesus Christ’s warning to avoid judging another man’s actions before first evaluating your own sinful heart. Both sides believed they were doing God’s will. But Lincoln declared that slavery caused the war, and perhaps God allowed men to bring destruction upon themselves “until every drop of blood drawn with the lash shall be paid by another drawn with the sword”. To Lincoln, war was the country’s “woe due” for violating the commitment America was founded upon – the right that all men, of all skin color, possess – liberty.
As he closed his speech, Lincoln turned to our verse for this week – Psalm 147:3. He used this verse as an olive branch to the Southern states – that the goal now is to forgive one another and “strive on to. . . bind up the nation’s wounds”. The healing of America had to begin with its leader facing a divided nation and pleading for forgiveness and reconciliation. The result: no southern state seceded. America began to heal.
America today can learn much from Abraham Lincoln. The July 7th murder in Dallas of five white policemen is another incident in the BlackLivesMatter’s cause of ‘war against the police’. Dallas Police Chief David Brown said that the murderer, 25-year old Micah Johnson, was “upset about the recent police shootings… upset at white people… he wanted to kill white people, especially white officers.”
In his speech in Dallas yesterday, President Obama told us “we are not as divided as we seem.” We certainly are. When Obama took office eight years ago, a CBS news poll found 66% of Americans thought race relations were good. Today, that same CBS poll finds 70% of Americans believe race relations are very bad. We are a nation divided. People aren’t short of opinions on how to bring America together. But none of those opinions are following Abraham Lincoln’s advice. We desperately need to turn to Jesus Christ and admit as Lincoln did our sin against one another. Then real healing will begin.
Ed Croteau is a resident of Lee’s Summit and hosts a weekly study in Lees Summit called “Faith: Substance and Evidence.” He can be reached with your questions through the Lee’s Summit Tribune at Editor@lstribune.net.