Fellow-citizens, we cannot escape history. We of this Congress and this administration, will be remembered in spite of ourselves. No personal significance, or insignificance, can spare one or another of us. The fiery trial through which we pass, will light us down, in honor or dishonor, to the latest generation. We say we are for the Union. The world will not forget that we say this. We know how to save the Union. The world knows we do know how to save it. We — even we here — hold the power, and bear the responsibility. In giving freedom to the slave, we assure freedom to the free — honorable alike in what we give, and what we preserve. We shall nobly save, or meanly lose, the last best hope of earth. Other means may succeed; this could not fail. The way is plain, peaceful, generous, just — a way which, if followed, the world will forever applaud, and God must forever bless. — President Abraham Lincoln (Annual Message to Congress —
Concluding Remarks, given on December 1, 1862; from here)
Lincoln spoke these words about two and a half months after the Battle of Antietam. The South had tried to take the war to the North, and Union forces had repulsed the invaders. Nevertheless, in a single day, almost 23,000 Americans were suddenly dead, wounded, or missing. When the path ahead promised still more dead, wounded, or missing, Lincoln called for a calm resolve to save the Union. Amazingly, the People listened. If we had been the People Lincoln spoken to, would we have listened?
We imagine the trials of our time to be difficult, and in a way they are. Although most of us have not been called upon to bleed in a bloody war, we struggle against our own apathy, the innumerable temptations we subject ourselves to, the culture of indifference we help to create, the feeling of powerlessness we cultivate as an excuse for inaction, the bafflement that arises from our lack of concern, … we struggle against the weaknesses of our own humanity and our own making.
Many of us do not even see any problems. We refuse to see. We insist our little world will continue as it is just because that is the way we have always known it.
Because we may not want to do so, we may never consider the possibility God made each of us for a purpose. In fact, just so we don’t have to think, to contemplate why we exist, we may deliberately fill each moment of our lives with busyness, with aimless bustle and hustle and with passive entertainment.
Born-again Christians have no excuse for aimless busyness or inertia. We know enough to stop and pray. We know we must take time to be still and know God (Psalm 46:10). We know enough to seek His Will. We know “we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works.”
Ephesians 2:1-10 English Standard Version (ESV)
2 And you were dead in the trespasses and sins 2 in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— 3 among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. 4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— 6 and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.
Our Lord even gave us His own example.
Mark 10:42-45 English Standard Version (ESV)
42 And Jesus called them to him and said to them, “You know that those who are considered rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. 43 But it shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, 44 and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. 45 For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
But too many do not practice our Lord’s example. So we live in a time of unraveling.
Would you like proof? Then consider. Are we eager to serve others, or do we wish to be served? When we vote, do we vote to further our own interests or the interests of our neighbors?
Contemplate our leaders. Don’t we elect people whose values reflect our own? Do our leaders serve us, or do they contrive to make us serve them?
When we vote — before we cast our ballot — each of us needs to ask our self a question. Is the person I am voting for helping me to serve my country, or is he buying my vote?
Are we willing to participate as best we can in public life? Do we take seriously the words of President John F. Kennedy?
And so, my fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you — ask what you can do for your country. (from here)
No? Then when our leaders enslave us, what right will we have we to complain?