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        

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