By Ben Black, Pastor of
“Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation….”
These historic words by Abraham Lincoln have been memorized and recited more times over the years than any other speech in American History. Four months after the battle, President Lincoln delivered this speech at Gettysburg to dedicate the Soldier’s National Cemetery for those who died. His historical words marked the moment in history when the civil war officially shifted from being one of independence for southern states to a war of freedom and equality. However, I wonder how much thought we have ever given to the ending of the president’s masterpiece? Recently, as I sat down to re-read these powerful words the stanza near the end stuck with me in a new way:
The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion
“The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here…”
I love the irony. Abraham Lincoln was not speaking as a man seeking to please the masses, he was merely a humble man speaking from the depths of his heart. Continuing through Lincoln’s heartfelt words addressed to those grieving on a bloodstained battlefield, my mind is forced to my own thoughts of Christian brothers and sisters that have gone to be with the Lord. As I read “from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion” I become acutely aware of how much those whom I have loved have inspired me to be who I am today.
My mind travels to memories of saints who helped raise my brother and I in the church and former Sunday school teachers who passed away. I am reminded of the lives of my grandfathers and the lessons they imparted to me in the brief time I had with them. I think of friends who walked alongside me in the faith and helped me discern how God was working in life before they were called home. I am reminded of some wonderful people here at Forest Hills who have gone to be with the Lord over the last two years and their impact on not only myself but in this community for Christ.
As I recall these fond people, I find that their memories are not depressing, but instead very encouraging! What a joy they were! As I reminisce, I find myself smiling over the time spent together, funny comments exchanged, quirks they had, and other precious moments that I will forever cherish.
These people poured love into my life- but not just love. Christ’s Love. Love that is infectious and changes lives. Love that ultimately turns everything you know on its head. I am comforted because as I continue to reflect, I am reminded by their love that I will one day be reunited with all of them because of the faith we share in Jesus Christ. President Lincoln wrote in the Gettysburg Address of the ultimate devotion demonstrated by those who have given their lives for the cause of freedom, so it also is for those who lived and died by faith for the Kingdom of God. I pray that I might be able to follow suit and live my life in the same manner with an “increased devotion” with love for our heavenly cause.
July 4th is coming soon and with it a time to reflect on those who have gone before us as we celebrate our heritage as a nation. I would encourage you not to limit your celebration to just those who fought for this country, as important as that is, but to also remember those who have lived for the Kingdom of God. Let their lives be an inspiration to you and a reminder that the best is still ahead. We have the hope of Christ guiding our steps as we follow those who have completed the race. So, as we celebrate our freedom, let’s not forget that in Christ is our true freedom. In Christ we are freed from the shackles of sin and given over to live for the righteousness of God. We are freed to love. With that freedom comes joy and the knowledge that we will be reunited once again with all of the saints who have been called home. Let freedom ring!
For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery. -Galatians 5:1