Subject: Humility: What Jesus Christ and Abraham Lincoln can teach our Government Officials
Philippians 2:3 “Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself.”
Last Sunday was an important anniversary for America. But with the media’s attention on the political infighting in Washington, it came and went with little mention. President Trump remembered, and honored the date with a tweet. February 12th was Abraham Lincoln’s 208th birthday.
When historians debate who was our most iconic President, the list usually narrows down to our 1st, George Washington, or our 16th, Abraham Lincoln. While Lincoln’s achievements make him special, it was his character that made him a legendary figure. In his sermon “Was Lincoln a Christian?”, former Pastor D. James Kennedy illuminates two of his most endearing qualities that every American should remember and every politician in Washington must adopt into their lives, if our great country is ever to heal from the anger and contempt so many seem to have for each other after the presidential election.
The first was Lincoln’s incredible capacity to forgive. Because of his passion to eliminate slavery, he was deeply hated by the South before he ever became President. Historian Arthur Cole noted that “Lincoln was pictured in many quarters not only as a black Republican but ‘as an Abolitionist; a fanatic of the John Brown type; the slave to one idea, who… would override laws, constitutions, and compromises of every kind’… to overturn the whole fabric of society.” Yet that isn’t what we see in Lincoln after the North defeated the South. Instead, and against many of his advisors’ wishes, Lincoln pursued forgiveness towards his enemies. Dr. Kennedy highlights an historical example for us: “Immediately after the war, with America deeply divided, Lincoln went to Richmond to the home of the President of the Confederacy who was, as you might imagine, ‘not home.’ His wife came to the door carrying a little baby in her arms, the baby of Jefferson Davis. The baby reached out to the President. Of course, Mrs. Davis was astounded to see Lincoln standing in her doorway. He took the baby into his arms and was given a big wet smack on the face. He handed the baby back to Mrs. Jefferson Davis and said, ‘Tell your husband that for the sake of that kiss, I forgive him everything.’”
The second of Lincoln’s most attractive personal qualities was his humility. In this story, Dr. Kennedy helps us see how great things could be accomplished if we stopped focusing on ourselves: “One time during the war Lincoln went to the home of General McClellan. Now McClellan had a hearty dislike for Lincoln, but he was a good general. Lincoln wanted him to become the general of the Army of the Potomac, because the war was not going well at all. When he arrived at his home that evening with an aide, the general was not home. The butler ushered them into the library, and they waited. They waited for over an hour. Finally the general came home, and the butler told him that the President of the United States was waiting to see him. But McClellan went upstairs. Ten, twenty, thirty minutes passed. Finally, the butler went upstairs and again said, “Sir, the President is still waiting for you.” In a few minutes he came back down and told the President, “The general has gone to bed.” If you were President of the United States, what would you do? Lincoln went back the next night. His aide said, “Sir, how can you put up with that ill-mannered boor?” Lincoln replied: “Why, I would be willing to hold McClellan’s horse, if only he will give victory to our army.”
How did Lincoln show such humility when so many were so ugly to him? One of his passions was studying the Bible, where he became captivated by the character of Jesus Christ. Lincoln actually practiced the instruction in our verse for this week – to esteem others better than himself. But it was the verses following this one that make this verse’s mandate so meaningful – because we are not doing something that wasn’t already modeled for us by Christ Himself: “Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who being in the form of God did not consider His equality with God to be something He had to hold onto, but instead emptied Himself of all His privileges as God by making Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a servant and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He HUMBLED himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross.” (Philippians 2:5-8).
This incredible power that Lincoln discovered, to live a life of humility that enables you to forgive those who have wronged you, is not found in yourself. It can only be found in the saving knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ. It is a spiritual solution desperately needed today in American government and its people.
“The Evidence of Faith’s Substance”, Article #230