July 25, 2020

Subject: Remove Statues of George Washington? No. Be Loving while Standing Strong.

1Corinthians 16:13-14 “Watch, stand fast in the faith, be strong. Let all that you do be done with love.”

Ed Croteau

In his 1792 sermon “The Character and Work of a Spiritual Watchman Described,” Pastor Lemuel Haynes explained the key attributes of any pastor if they are going to be an effective servant of Jesus Christ.

Pastor Haynes explained that most importantly, you must love Christ and love proclaiming His name to all who would hear, being alert to share the gospel of Jesus Christ with those you meet. The next essential quality of a true servant of God is you must understand who are the spiritual enemies you are facing.

Once you set your mind to the gospel, and you know your adversaries opposing you, stand fast in that faith and, as Pastor Haynes puts it, “be courageous and strong-hearted, seeking to please only God.”

In the current climate of American society, where the media, radical Marxist rioters, and even some city government officials are advocating our beloved nation as inherently racist, Pastor Lemuel Haynes is extremely well qualified to teach us how to confront those who would destroy America’s Christian heritage.

Pastor Haynes was born into slavery in 1753. At 21, after being freed from slavery, he joined the Minutemen and in October 1776 he joined the Continental Army, fighting for the liberty we all now enjoy,

In 1776, he wrote “Liberty Further Extended” as his response to the Declaration of Independence, where our Founders emphasized the “self-evident truths” that “all men are created equal”, and “all men are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness”. His essay, still considered one of the most forceful Revolutionary-era arguments against slavery, rebuked the founders that true liberty means for all men, not just those fighting Britain.

Then, at 27 years old became a preacher. And in 1785 he became America’s first black pastor. In 1804 he received a Masters of Arts degree from Middlebury College – the first black American to achieve this accomplishment. The most incredible part of his story is he pastored his all-white church for over 30 years.

Dedicating his life at an early age to the gospel of Jesus Christ, he knew that to be free from tyranny and oppression requires a personal conviction to defend liberty, regardless of skin color, religious beliefs or social status. In today’s America, just the opposite is happening. Liberty is under attack. Rioters burn the flag, protestors refuse to stand for our national anthem, activists call America a systemically racist nation, city councils vote to defund our police, and the cherished right of free speech is being stifled.

I wonder what Pastor Haynes would think of the Portland rioters who tore down the statue of our first President, the “Father of the American Revolution”, George Washington, on June 18th, claiming that since Washington owned slaves he is a disgrace to America? Pastor Haynes would fight to defend Washington.

Lemuel Haynes was a lifelong admirer of Washington. His political affiliation was centered on, as he put it, the “idealization of George Washington and allegiance to the Federalist Party.” Haynes, a slave until 21 years old, did write that any African has an undeniable right to liberty, and condemned slavery as sin.

But he also deeply respected the sacrifices made by Washington and many others, so that all men could be free. And he knew the foundation upon which men like Washington stood – the Person of Jesus Christ. He “stood fast” in love for all people and America, adhering to the Bible’s mandate that all are one in Christ.

In our verse for this week, the apostle Paul wrote his first of two letters to the church in Corinth in 56 AD. The focus of this first letter was to deal with divisions within the church, as carnal behaviors of that fledgling body of believers threatened their ability to stand in the heat of Roman persecution during the reign of Nero. Verses 13-14 are taken from the last chapter of this letter, where Paul encourages the church to “stand fast in the faith”, and focus on love as the motivation for all decisions and actions being taken.

Who would have guessed that 1,720 years later, a former slave would scold our founders over declaring all men having a God-given unalienable right to liberty without including slaves in that category as men, but then decide to serve all men, and an all-white congregation, out of love in the name of Jesus Christ?

If Lemuel Haynes is not one of the best examples today of how we must treat one another, I do not know who is. He combines the qualities of standing strong in what is right while still loving those in opposition.

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.