In these days, weeks turned into months, there has been more time to think and consider a long list of things if we have chosen to do so. Such exercise can draw out more noteworthy points greater than the obvious ones in clear evidence. And it is these things we must learn and take with us for whatever may befall us in the future, for these will help us weather those future storms.
One difference was the theme and focus on my recent post, “It’s Different This Time” (pamecrement.com/2020/05/27/its-different-this-time/) that points to our inability to gather together in places of worship to strengthen and encourage one another as we look to God during the current pandemic.
But there is something else – a shadow that lurks – that is meant to undue us and this is an enemy we must defeat lest it destroy us.
This enemy creeps in among us and between us. It whispers in our thoughts and sneaks into our dreams. It shouts at us in headlines, mocks us on social media, and erupts across fences between neighbors or at long-cherished family dinners.
At first, we did not recognize this enemy in our midst or how we served its purposes. It was just something we thought or believed, an opinion we expressed that somehow picked at the threads that wove us together beginning to create a small hole.
Even if we noticed the small hole, it was so small that we shrugged off any concern we might have about it because the woven fabric was so sturdy and had been a comfort and blessing to us through so many hard times that it might seem logical that a small hole might appear.
What we failed to do was look at the whole of the woven fabric from so long ago. If we had done so, we might have seen other small holes were showing up throughout the fabric and would soon destroy it if action were not taken.
How foolish to be only focused on one small part and miss the bigger picture, but the enemy knew the weaknesses and we gave ourselves as instruments for his purposes.
We let our opinion become fact.
We decided your opinion had no value and should be corrected. When you would not hear our logic to refute your opinion, we shut you out and labeled you so others would see and devalue you.
How could we forget that seeds of disunity could undo us – undo friendships, families, churches, businesses, organizations, and nations?
When did our opinion become a model for everyone else and so important to us that we would allow it to begin to destroy what we hold most dear?
This time is different also because even in trial we refuse to come together to face a common enemy because our opinion is right and yours is wrong. Each word that comes from our mouths or social media adds to the chasm beginning to appear.
Leaders from long ago warned us of such things and argued that to do so would expose our peril.
One figure in American History understood such dangers. Wisdom should cause us to recall that other time and place that nearly destroyed the United States when the opinions and beliefs about slavery brought us to the brink of destruction as a young country.
Yes, Abraham Lincoln could give us wise counsel.
On June 16, 1858, 1000 delegates were gathered in Springfield, Illinois, for the Republican State Convention. They chose an unlikely candidate to run against Stephen Douglas. The backwoods lawyer would stand and give a speech that appeared radical and would forever be remembered for its inclusion of a statement by Jesus in three synoptic gospels. He spoke boldly regarding the division slavery had created and he was defeated in the election for the Senate, but his words still echo across history and some say they propelled him to later become the sixteenth President of the United States.
A portion of that speech reads:
“If we could first know where we are, and whither we are tending, we could then better judge what to do, and how to do it.
We are now far into the fifth year, since a policy was initiated, with the avowed object, and confident promise, of putting an end to slavery agitation.
Under the operation of that policy, that agitation has not only, not ceased, but has constantly augmented.
In my opinion, it will not cease, until a crisis shall have been reached, and passed.
“A house divided against itself cannot stand.”
I believe this government cannot endure, permanently half slave and half free.
I do not expect the Union to be dissolved — I do not expect the house to fall — but I do expect it will cease to be divided.
It will become all one thing or all the other.”
Lincoln’s passion for unity was not defeated when he lost his bid for the U.S. Senate and he would once more stand and call for the best from his countryman at his first inaugural address on March 1, 1861:
“The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battlefield and patriot grave, to every heart and hearth-stone, all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.”
The newly sworn President spoke these words to appeal to the best instincts of the citizens of the nation as the better way to navigate the storm of the civil war that lay ahead.
What appeal might we need to stem the tide now as the voices raised against one another are not about slavery, but about the opinion on so many things we seem to hold more dear than the nation that allows us to express it – the opinion we must express even if it erodes the one to whom it is addressed?
We must never be silent in the midst of evil that threatens to undo us, but should we not be cautious about labeling an opinion shaped in ways we may never know as evil itself?
And when we consider this, it must start while we are on our knees before One who is more righteous and just than we rather than to point to what may be wrong with anyone else.
Of course, there is evil and injustice aplenty as there has always been, but when opinions are labeled as either of these, we lose the significance of the very things we should oppose.
It is time to listen long and seek to understand before we put our own opinion up as fact.