Taking Up Our Mandate from Our Written Source, the Bible


The Gutenberg Bible, the first printed Bible.

The Gutenberg Bible, the first printed Bible.

Like Abraham Lincoln, we have a twofold mandate and two source materials.

First, we have a mission mandate based on our written source material, the Bible. Second, we have a motive mandate based on our heart source material, inspired by the Holy Spirit.

If we go into the Scriptures, our source document, how do we pull out our mandate? Does the Bible tell us what our job is?

In order to justify our life’s journey, like Lincoln, we need to look for a mandate to stand behind us and anchor everything we do. Thankfully, the Bible presents an amazingly consistent pattern for our two-part mandate.

10 Scriptures: A biblical pattern of the two-part mandate

1. Mark 12:28-34, The most important commandment

2. Matthew 28:16-20, The Great Commission

3. Deuteronomy 6:4-7, Loving God is not a solo issue. It always has two parts.

4. Exodus 20, Four commandments on loving God, six on loving your brother

5. Psalms 16:1-3, The Psalmist links the two-part mandate

6. Book of Hosea, Loves God and obeys him by loving his people in a dramatic way

7. John 15:9-17, Jesus’ final discourse to his disciples…to love God and love others

8. 1 Corinthians 13, Paul talks to the church “if I don’t have love I am nothing”

9. Ephesians 3:14-21, Established in love (one of my favorite passages of Scripture)

10. Revelation 2:1-7, Church of Ephesus did one part of mandate but not the other

Our Dual Mandate: Lovers of God, Lovers of People

The Nash Papyrus (2nd century BC) contains the Ten Commandments and the Shema Yisrael prayer quoted by Jesus.

The Nash Papyrus (2nd century BC) contains the Ten Commandments and the Shema Yisrael prayer quoted by Jesus.

Imagine you were to ask Jesus to follow the pattern of Abe Lincoln and say, “What’s your mandate? Why do you do what you do?”

Do you want to know what he is going to say to you?

We find the answer in Mark’s Gospel, chapter 12. One of the teachers of the law walks up and hears some hotshots debating with Jesus. Noticing that Jesus has given them a good answer, he asks him, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?”

“The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.” (Mark 12:28-31 NIV)

Listen again to what Jesus says about his dual mandate: “Because I’m a lover of God, and I’m a lover of people. If you look behind the curtain in my life, that’s what you’re going to find. That’s the engine that fuels what I do, and if you want to know how I am going to get where I need to go, I’m going to get there because I’m a lover of God and a lover of people.”

Now I thought, maybe we should just check that out and see if that mandate holds up in our source documents. Jesus pulled his response out of the source documents. He didn’t make that up. He went in, pulled it out, and set it in front of this man who was actually a type of lawyer who asked him the question. He pulled it from their law, in Deuteronomy 6, “The Lord our God is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength. These commandments I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road.”

So there, in Deuteronomy 6, the context again is that loving God has to do with whom? You’re loving God, and who are you sharing that with? The children. So, there is always this context of the people around you. Loving God was never a solo issue. It was always two parts. Loving God and loving people. They’re inseparable: a two-part mandate.”

Like Lincoln, we have a twofold mandate and two source materials. As we continue, it might be helpful to think of it this way. First, we have a mission mandate based on our written source material, the Bible. Second, we have a motive mandate based on our heart source material, inspired by the Holy Spirit.

What’s Your Mandate?

An American family Bible dating to 1859.

An American family Bible dating to 1859.

I love Abraham Lincoln. I love the fact that he had a clear mandate that guided everything he said and did. His mandate was twofold. One was to preserve the nation, and one was to end slavery. Lincoln had two sources for guiding his decision making. One was the law and the constitution, and the other was something profound in his heart. We have a mandate and ours is twofold as well. This is a surprising parallel because our mandate is in Mark chapter 12 from the mouth of Jesus, and the guy talking with him was a lawyer. The guy didn’t say, “Give me your mandate.” Instead, he said to Jesus, “What is the most important of all the commandments?” Jesus’ answer went straight to the law, and then straight to the heart.

Abraham Lincoln’s Talking Coat

Detail of the coat Abraham Lincoln wore everywhere, including the evening he was assassinated

Detail of the coat Abraham Lincoln wore everywhere, including the evening he was assassinated

As I watched the movie Lincoln (2012), I cheered in my spirit as I saw Lincoln’s simple humanity and how he wrestled with the seemingly impossible questions that shaped the current events of his day.

It was a difficult time to be an American, let alone the president. Yet as Lincoln faced the excruciating presidential decisions he had to make, he always seemed to arrive at a level of certainty about what he was supposed to accomplish.

I left the movie wondering to myself, How did Lincoln find such certainty in the midst the turmoil that surrounded his life?

Because the movie had to preserve the audience’s attention, the question of Lincoln’s inner machinery was left largely unexplored. True, there were a few moments when the storyline tried to gaze into the inner working of his heart, but ultimately the script writers chose not to explore the space of Lincoln’s inner process.

Thankfully, students of Lincoln know he left substantial clues about how he stood immovable despite the storms of civil war and political intrigue. One of the biggest clues was hiding inside of his coat.

President Lincoln was hardly ever seen without his great coat. It was a three quarters length overcoat custom made for Lincoln by Brooks Brothers. From the outside it was nice enough, but on the inside of the back lining we learn what shaped Lincoln in what proved to be his final years.

If you look inside Lincoln’s coat, which resides in the Ford Theater museum, you will find these words embroidered on the back lining: “One Nation, One Destiny.” The words are on a scroll held in the beak of a bald eagle, the symbol of America.

In four words, Lincoln summed up what was behind his presidency. In these four words he tells us, and more importantly told himself, how he would sort out the events, the demands, and the questions that threatened to swallow up his life.

From that embroidered panel, which followed Lincoln wherever he went, we can safely conclude several important things about America’s 16th president. First, he understood the power of big ideas. Second, he knew how to eliminate the noise of excess words and thoughts that so often obscure critical guiding truths. Third, once he reduced everything to four words, he took deliberate steps to make sure he never let those big truths slip through his hands.

If Lincoln were around today, I wonder if he would have skipped the embroidery and just went all-out for a tattoo. I can see him in a cabinet meeting filled with wrangling subordinates, suddenly bringing order by rolling up his sleeve and saying in a resolute voice, “Gentlemen, read the arm.”

What can we take away from Lincoln’s example? First, I think all of us can agree that we, like Lincoln, are facing confounding circumstances and questions shaped by the current events of our day. Although we may not live in the midst of civil war and assassination plots, most of us would agree that our lives feel destabilized by the events that make up our world today. Is it possible that we, like Lincoln, need to revisit the core guiding truths that shape our lives? Could we, like Lincoln, hone these truths to their plainest immovable words and ideas, and then recommit ourselves to living by these guiding truths?

Fortunately, for the Christian, we don’t have to go searching for a political or legal mandate. We have a leader, greater than any president, who already has sorted the words and ideas that swirl around our lives. He has already clearly pointed us to the irreducible words and central idea that defines who we are and how we are to navigate in our world. We find our leader and His mandate for life in the Gospel of Mark, chapter 12, verses 28-34.

 28One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?”

 29“The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. 30Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ 31The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”

 32“Well said, teacher,” the man replied. “You are right in saying that God is one and there is no other but him. 33To love him with all your heart, with all your understanding and with all your strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself is more important than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.” 34When Jesus saw that he had answered wisely, he said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” And from then on no one dared ask him any more questions.

Reading these words, and understanding the context in which Jesus spoke them, gives us a great starting point to follow Lincoln’s example of great ideas expressed in few words.

Consider the following questions as you try to design a mandate that will help you sort out the circumstances, questions, and demands that you face in your life.

1. Jesus didn’t make up the words He used to answer the lawyer’s question. The majority of them are found in Deuteronomy 6. Take a minute and read the first twelve verses of this chapter. What do they tell you about repeating your mandate? Do you think there was a bit of God’s wisdom in Lincoln’s decision to embroider his mandate into the back of his coat? Do you think it is necessary to physically display important ideas today? If so, what are some ways to do that?

2. Can you shorten the words of Mark 12:28-34? Did Jesus ever use a shorter version of this mandate?

3. When you think of loving God, is it helpful to consider what you know about how love acts, speaks, feels, etc. in a healthy human relationship? (For example when we love another person we spend time together.) See how many attributes you can list of a healthy love relationship between two people, and then ask yourself if they apply to loving God. Did Jesus demonstrate any of these “common love” practices in His relationship with God?

4. If being a lover is our mandate—first a lover of God, and second a lover of people—how important is it to clearly define what love looks like in real time? Have you ever read the Scriptures or prayed with this question in mind? If so, what was your experience? If not, are you willing to make this experience yours today?

Abraham Lincoln's coat stil is on display in the Ford Theatre

Abraham Lincoln’s coat stil is on display in the Ford Theatre Museum


Abraham Lincoln’s Example: Two sources

Still from the critically acclaimed movie, Lincoln (2012)

Still from the critically acclaimed movie, Lincoln (2012)

One of America’s greatest presidents, Abraham Lincoln, always has fascinated me. For a long time, however, I wasn’t entirely sure why.

Now, what stands out the most is Lincoln’s two-part mandate. One, preserve the nation, and the other, end slavery. Everything he thought, said and did had its source in those two mandates.

So, where did Abraham Lincoln get his two-part mandate?

First, Lincolon was a lawyer so the he reached into some source material and he pulled out what he needed in order to build his case. He had this very distinct process of reaching into some source material, the legal documents and the Constitutional documents of the nation, and he pulled out pieces of it and he built this actual structure in his thinking of legal justification for his behavior as far as he could go.

But guess what? Abe ran out of documents and at some places the documents were incomplete, and so what did he have to do?

There was something inside of Lincoln that he relied on as that final source of information. When he needed to make a very difficult decision and the source documents that he used in his legal side of his brain ran out, he was able to go inside and find something else in his heart that helped guide his decision-making process.

As I watched the movie Lincoln (2012), I cheered in my spirit because I was so enthralled with how human he was, how he processed being a human being. I was so impressed as I watched him process the tremendous challenges before him, and then know for certain what he was supposed to accomplish.

In our own lives, we may or may not have a good grasp on our source material, God’s Word, the Bible. Oh, we may know it intellectually, but we may not have processed it fully, owned it, and made it our own.

Then again, we may or may not take enough time in prayer and quietness to hear what our own heart has to say based on the covenants, commitments, and promises we have made.

Like Lincoln, we need both sources to meet the challenges before us in this life.

To Ponder and Discuss: Self-discovery: your inner mandate

1. Is this idea of having a driving life mandate new to you? Is it a new thought that intrigues or challenges you and how? It’s okay if you haven’t thought about it in those terms before.

2. How would you describe your mandate, if any, or how would you like to begin thinking about a new one?

3. How has your desire to define, establish and live out an inner mandate emerged from your introduction to Lincoln’s example? Name one example of how that inner mandate could transform your decision making process in the mundane—and sometimes very difficult—realities of everyday life, family, marriage?

4.  At some point, for every moral decision, you have to go beyond external, written source documents and dig into the well of your emotional resources—your covenants, commitments or promises. What or who are the sources of your inner reserve?


Abraham Lincoln’s Example: Two mandates, two sources

Abraham Lincoln portrait, 1863

Abraham Lincoln portrait, 1863

So, what do you think of Abraham Lincoln?

It’s been amazing to see all the renewed interest in one of America’s greatest presidents.

I’m attracted to Abe Lincoln possibly because of my background, but I’m not sure that’s really it.

After reading through the material on Lincoln’s life several times I started to see a pattern in all the biographers, and the thing that so struck me about him was that he had a mechanism for navigating life. And, his two-part mechanism has tremendous implications for how you and I live our lives. This is true humanly speaking. And, it’s true in our life of faith, especially if you’re a Christian, a Christ-one, a follower of Jesus Christ.

Let’s start with the most famous thing Abraham Lincoln ever wrote and the most famous thing he ever said. In his Gettysburg Address, there is a pattern of how he processed life and we’re going to look at it briefly, and then we’re going to apply his pattern to our lives.

(If you don’t know it by heart, you can read his Nov. 19, 1863, Gettysburg Address at http://showcase.netins.net/web/creative/lincoln/speeches/gettysburg.htm.)

In two minutes, Abraham Lincoln did something amazing: he laid out the justification for everything that he was doing. There was no prior model or pattern in history for the problems that faced him, but out of his resources (the law and the constitution) he had created a way to justify the hard decisions that he had made. He had to face enormous casualties and cost, on a daily basis, and he had to go through the process of deciding, why? What justified this?

Lincoln came up with two reasons, and they’re both in this speech. He felt that he was given a great charge and a trust, and it was bigger than the abolition of slavery: it was the preservation of the nation.

Abraham Lincoln had a vision of America as this great world power and this nation that God actually was building on the earth, and it was something that was a destiny for this nation. He saw the secession of the South not primarily as an attempt to preserve slavery, but as an assault on the destiny of the nation.

There were two mandates. One was certainly the end of slavery. He saw slavery as being a threat to the nation in many ways, but he also labored primarily for the preservation of the greatness of the nation, and that was really the thing that he used as his mandate.

So, Abraham Lincoln had a two-part mandate. One, preserve the nation, and the other one was end slavery, and those two mandates touched. They were together. He couldn’t separate them, but he worked on both of them and he used them throughout all of his labor. They would pop up like that, and he believed that he was sent to stand in that place, and to do that work, and to follow that mandate and see this thing to the end, and that was his inner conversation as he labored to justify the cost of what he was involved in.

Next: Abe Lincoln’s Two Sources