With Malice toward None, With Charity toward All

now-whatJoe was a drunk who was miraculously converted at a homeless mission. Prior to his conversion, he had gained the reputation of being a dirty wino for whom there was no hope, only a miserable existence in the ghetto. But following his conversion to a new life in Christ, everything changed. Joe became the most caring person that anyone associated with the mission had ever known. Joe spent his days and nights hanging out at the mission, doing whatever needed to be done. Whether cleaning up the vomit left by some violently sick alcoholic or scrubbing toilets after careless men left the men’s room filthy, Joe did what was asked with a smile on his face and gratitude in his heart.

One evening, when a guest preacher was delivering an evening evangelistic message to the usual crowd, there was one man who came down the aisle to the altar, and knelt to pray, crying to God to help him change. The repentant drunk kept shouting, “Oh God! Make me like Joe! Make me like Joe! Make me like Joe!”

The preacher leaned over and said to the man, “Son, I think it would be better if you prayed, ‘Make me like Jesus.’”

The man looked up at the preacher with a confused expression on his face and asked, “Is he like Joe?”

If you are the closest thing to Jesus some will ever see, what are they seeing? Are they seeing his concern for the poor? Are they seeing his compassion? Are they seeing his willingness to serve others? Are they seeing his love through you? “As God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience,” Paul tells the Colossians (
3:12). As Jesus lived, so his followers are to live. Bearing the burdens of others. Offering forgiveness where forgiveness is needed.

Whatever else you put on in the morning, Paul would say make sure you “clothe yourselves with love” (Colossians 3:14). Love binds everything in perfect harmony. And if there is anything that our world needs right now, it is harmony.

There has been a lot of “How could they….?” “What reasonable person would vote for ……?” “Why are they ignoring ……?” questions with this election. There has been a lot of name calling: “Deplorable,  crooked, corrupt, lyin, crazy, and goofy” have all been used by both sides. We may feel someone is being ridiculous, but that doesn’t give us the right to be ridiculous in our response to them.

One hundred and fifty-one years ago, Abraham Lincoln stood on the eastern portico of the U.S. Capitol and delivered his second inaugural address. In it he outlined an expansive vision for national reconciliation for a country divided by Civil War. The speech was seeped in biblical references. By his extensive reading of scripture and long nights of reflection, Lincoln came to the conclusion that all humans were plagued with selfish motives. As the Apostle Paul says, “We don’t yet see things clearly. We’re squinting in a fog, peering through a mist.” (I Cor. 13:12 The Message), Lincoln understood that as individuals we judge the world with blurred vision. This viewpoint gave him the ability to hold the North and South in the same light.

In his speech, Lincoln could have sowed seeds of resentment. He could have held out hatred for those who opposed him. He could have led out of a spirit of vengeance. Instead, in words influenced by the command to love your enemies, Lincoln says, “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.”

If our nation is going to heal from the wounds of division, if we are going to be a people united, it is going to need leadership from those who will rise up and say, “With malice toward none, with charity toward all.” It is going to take a church that is known more for what it stands for than what it stands against. It is going to take followers of Jesus who are clothed in love and who let the peace of Christ rule in their hearts. I believe we can be that church and we can be those people.

 

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