The will of God (always) prevails. In great contests each party claims to act in accordance with the will of God…, and yet one (party) must be wrong. God cannot be for and against the same thing at the same time.” – Abraham Lincoln

In general, I am an optimist; a glass half full, we can do all things kind of guy. But, I am also a practical person who does not hide inside a bubble of denial or wishful thinking.  When the daily headlines read like quotations from the prophetic texts of ancient scriptures, I can’t help but take notice.  It seems pretty clear to me that if certain cultural trends and the vitriolic political rancor continue unabated, times of great distress will surly come upon us. Perhaps the marvelous man from Galilee said it best nearly 2000 years ago,

24 “A nation cannot last if it is divided against itself. 25 A family cannot last if it is divided against itself.” (Mark 3:24-25)

On June 16, 1858 the Springfield, Illinois, Republican State Convention chose Abraham Lincoln as their candidate for the U.S. Senate. That evening, Lincoln delivered an address to the more than 1000 delegates which (borrowing from the words of Jesus) he entitled, “A house divided against itself cannot stand.”

Mr. Lincoln was warned by friends to whom he read the finished address ahead of time that it was too radical and politically incorrect for the occasion. Nevertheless, Lincoln delivered the speech as written; arguing that the expression, (a house divided against itself), “is a truth of all human experience…”, and that his intention was to use something familiar to his audience in order to “rouse them to the peril of the times. [1] The threat of his time, of course, was slavery and the looming danger of a civil war. Mr. Lincoln warned the delegates that day,

“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 lost his run for the Senate that year, but two years later, Nov 6th 1860, he would go on to be elected the 16th President of the United States. Dec. 20 of that same year, South Carolina seceded from the Union.  On April 12, 1861, the Confederates fired on Fort Sumter. Thus, in a nation divided against itself, the Civil War had begun. After much bloodshed and human suffering, the Unionists prevailed, order was restored, and for the time being the nation was saved from utter ruin.

Fast forward 150 years or so and what do we observe? The United States of America is anything but united, let alone one nation under God.  We live in a country that is not only sharply divided, but continues to fundamentally dilute her national character. It’s getting harder and harder to find honorable leaders who will defend the righteous principles that inspired our Constitution and enabled the USA to become a one-time envy of the world.  Now-a-days, many of our marginally informed, blasé and  lethargic population are eager to trade their priceless liberty, privacy and sovereignty for the promise of freebie prosperity and temporary security. In essence, much like the biblical character Esau who foolishly squandered his heritage for a mere bowl of soup (Genesis 25:29-34), many a US citizen unwittingly sells their precious birthright of freedom and self-determination to satisfy short term cravings.

What about modern religion in America, and Christianity in particular? Is it just me, or are we living in a time when so many of the faithful are redefining their traditional values for the sake of maintaining a cultural relevance?  Sociological trends have spawned an all-inclusive spiritual movement that boarders on agnosticism.  Today’s religious agnostics can be very hard to spot. They will often embrace theological principles if it helps them to understand some perplexing aspects of the human condition while at the same time maintaining that any absolute truth is subjective, unknown, or unknowable. Let’s just call this new movement what it really is: The First Church of the Ambiguous.  Come as you are, or don’t come at all, and only believe what makes you happy.

And let’s not forget the multitudes that have either lost their faith in God altogether or never had any belief in a Supernatural being to begin with. Our society (secular and sacred) has become so fragmented by diverse opinions and viewpoints that it is not an overstatement to say that we are living in a very divided house(Matthew 12:25) God help us all.

“You have to expect spiritual warfare whenever you stand up for righteousness or call attention to basic values. It’s just a matter of light battling the darkness. But the light wins every time. You can’t throw enough darkness on light to put it out.” – Thomas Kinkade

So what is the proper Christian response to all the mayhem?

The short answer is this: “Do all that you can to live in peace with everyone.” (Romans 12:18 NLT)  As men and women of faith, we are not mandated by the Almighty to choose sides in the secular world and then participate in endless partisan arguments that only engender strife.  Doing so only serves to diminish our authenticity, and lessen our effectiveness as the light and salt of the world.  The Newer Testament writer Paul said,

23 Again I say, don’t get involved in foolish, ignorant arguments that only start fights. 24 A servant of the Lord must not quarrel but must be kind to everyone, be able to teach, and be patient with difficult people.  (2 Timothy 2:23-24)

Sometimes I wonder if God fearing men and women have lost sight of our true adversary.  Again turning to the Letters of Paul:

12 “Our fight is not against any physical enemy: it is against organizations and powers that are spiritual. We are up against the unseen power that controls this dark world, and spiritual agents from the very headquarters of evil.” (Ephesians 6:12 Phillips)

We are not at war with one another.  Our fight is spiritual.  It is a warfare waged first in the realms of the unseen. The admonition of the scripture is to steer clear of people who live to make trouble and look to start fights (Romans 16:17). As followers of Jesus, we are to speak the truth in love while not becoming arrogant in expressing our views of the TRUTH. It’s called living in harmony with one another (Romans 12:16).

One of my favorite secular authors is Samuel Langhorne Clemens, best known by his pen name Mark Twain.  In his novel, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Twain had this to say about quarreling:

“A feud is this way: A man has a quarrel with another man, and kills him; then that other man’s brother kills him; then the other brothers, on both sides, goes for one another; then the cousins’ chip in — and by and by everybody’s killed off, and there ain’t no more feud. But it’s kind of slow, and takes a long time.” ― Mark Twain

How apropos.  Any Nation divided by partisan strife is bound to eventually collapse.  Any household (church, religion, etc.) caught up in endless conflict (feuds) will eventually self-destruct.  Jesus once said,

Blessed are those who work for peace, for they will be called the children of God.” (Matthew 5:9)

Work for peace on earth and goodwill toward mankind?  I’m down for that.  How about you?

[1] Herndon, op. cit., p. 325

Joseph A. Cerreta, PhD., is a noted author, broadcaster, a popular Bible teacher and a rabid Coastal Junkie®
For additional information write to: Coastal Life Ministries, P.O. Box 1283, New Port Richey, Florida 34656.

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