Division. Inequality. Conflict. So much of our attention is being drawn to these in our current challenging days.  Black and White. Privileged and oppressed. Citizens and police. Republicans and Democrats. We live in a time with so much division among us, there are some beginning to wonder out loud if this can end in any other way than civil war. 

This discord has even thrown open the wounds of THE Civil War, fought over a century and a half ago. As statues are being torn down and we debate the merits of commemorations from that horrible time in our nation’s history, perhaps nothing can address our modern-day strife better than the words heard way back then, in the midst of that great tragedy. I have quoted many writers in sharing a mid-week reflection, most modern, some ancient, but never one from our American history. While many of us are familiar with Abraham Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address, some are not, and few recognize its spiritual depth or truth.  

I encourage you to take a few deep breaths, eliminate distractions and take four minutes to carefully take in Lincoln’s immortal words. Each one of us–and our Nation as a whole–would do well to deeply consider what that great man, that great president, that great Christian, spoke to the division of his day. Imagine if our nation today adopted the spirit of “malice toward none, charity for all.” While our nation as a whole may not, each of us can choose to act “with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right.” May each of us be inspired to do just that. There is no greater need to heal the division in our own time.”


The Second Inaugural Address

by President Abraham Lincoln

(After introductory comments comparing his second inauguration to the first, Lincoln began to address the War between the States, then in its fourth long, bloody year.) “…On the occasion corresponding to this four years ago all thoughts were anxiously directed to an impending civil war. All dreaded it ~ all sought to avert it. While the inaugural address was being delivered from this place devoted altogether to saving the Union without war, insurgent agents were in the city seeking to destroy it without war ~ seeking to dissolve the Union and divide effects by negotiation. Both parties deprecated war but one of them would make war rather than let the nation survive, and the other would accept war rather than let it perish. And the war came.

“One eighth of the whole population were colored slaves not distributed generally over the union but localized in the southern part of it. These slaves constituted a peculiar and powerful interest. All knew that this interest was somehow the cause of the war. To strengthen, perpetuate and extend this interest was the object for which the insurgents would rend the Union even by war while the government claimed no right to do more than to restrict the territorial enlargement of it. Neither party expected for the war the magnitude or the duration which it has already attained. Neither anticipated that the cause of the conflict might cease with or even before the conflict itself should cease. Each looked for an easier triumph and a result less fundamental and astounding. Both read the same Bible and pray to the same God and each invokes His aid against the other. It may seem strange that any men should dare to ask a just God’s assistance in wringing their bread from the sweat of other men’s faces but let us judge not that we be not judged. The prayers of both could not be answered ~ that of neither has been answered fully. The Almighty has His own purposes. “Woe unto the world because of offenses for it must needs be that offenses come but woe to that man by whom the offense cometh.” If we shall suppose that American slavery is one of those offenses which in the providence of God must needs come but which having continued through His appointed time He now wills to remove and that He gives to both North and South this terrible war as the woe due to those by whom the offense came shall we discern therein any departure from those divine attributes which the believers in a living God always ascribe to Him. Fondly do we hope ~ fervently do we pray ~ that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away. Yet, if God wills that it continue until all the wealth piled by the bondsman’s two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash shall be paid by another drawn with the sword as was said three thousand years ago so still it must be said ‘the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.’

“With malice toward none with charity for all with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right let us strive on to finish the work we are in to bind up the nation’s wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan ~ to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.”