Sunday Verse 4: Presidential Musings

This is the fourth in a series of Sunday posts related to the Food for Thought award from Citizen Tom:

The Food for Thought posts


Matthew 12 is telling part of the story of Jesus, and two aspects of this chapter struck me.  First, it has been the source of a number of statements that are commonly associated with US presidents, and second that it also contains a reference applicable to our current one.

To the first point: Does this sound familiar?

Matthew 12:25 “Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation; and every city or house divided against itself shall not stand.”

Abraham Lincoln, during his unsuccessful run for Senator in 1858: “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.”

As I have written, Lincoln was dead set against slaves, and the states dead set against states’ rights, prior to his becoming president.

Matthew 12:30 “He that is not with me is against me; and he that gathereth not with me scattereth abroad.”

George W. Bush, Sep 20, 2001: “Every nation in every region now has a decision to make: Either you are with us or you are with the terrorists.From this day forward, any nation that continues to harbor or support terrorism will be regarded by the United States as a hostile regime. Our nation has been put on notice, we’re not immune from attack. We will take defensive measures against terrorism to protect Americans.”

The entire speech (nine days after 9/11) is good, and Bush carefully makes the distinction between Muslims and the jihadists who would “hijack their faith.”

I just omitted a section of this that was relevant, but became rather too political. It seemed unworthy of the spirit of this effort.

So back to Matthew and ignoring politics for the moment, Jesus one again demonstrates that he will not force a non-believer to the faith.  This is completely contrary to the conclusion reached by the later Qur’an, but is stated many times in the Bible, and presaged the freedom of worship that appears so prominently in the US Constitution’s Bill of Rights.

I’ve often heard the jibe that goes typically, “If Jesus were to appear today, you would not even recognize him.”  But it is clear from Mark 10 and other chapters that Jesus faced this challenge to a high degree in his own time. Over and over again, he performs miracles from curing the afflicted to raising the dead, and over and over again not all the witnesses believe him. Many do, but not all:

13 Then saith he to the man, Stretch forth thine hand. And he stretched it forth; and it was restored whole, like as the other.
Then the Pharisees went out, and held a council against him, how they might destroy him.

They were not impressed.  And in the modern world, with our electronics and our drugs and other medical miracles, it is hard to imagine that we would be quickly convinced.

Each of us is charged with the responsibility to make up our own minds, and to not only seek the truths around us but to prepare ourselves to recognize those truths. This is not always or necessarily in formal education, but can be accomplished by adopting habits of mind that allow us to see the world clearly.

We are not sheep, to be easily misled. At one point in a nearby verse Jesus uses an extended metaphor to refer to Christians as sheep, in order to demonstrate that he is the doorway that will admit the shepherd (and can be the shepherd himself). But this is focused on his own role in salvation, and not intending to diminish the responsibility of his people — for he also says here:

12 How much then is a man better than a sheep?

Indeed. We face challenges ahead, and we will overcome them only to the extent that each of us can make ourselves “better than a sheep.”

And one last verse from a completely different chapter, if you will forgive the leap:

Ephesians 6:13 “Therefore, take up the full armor of God, that you may be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm.”

Our veterans have mightily resisted and defeated evil many times in our history, and prevented the evil day from extinguishing the flame of freedom. Many were Christians, and they were joined by US soldiers, sailors and marines of other faiths or none, except a shared desire to stand firm to preserve and protect our nation and our Constitution. I offer again a heartfelt thanks to all of our veterans, and will repeat A Thank You to Veterans I wrote a few years back

Two hundred thirty years ago, a man awoke one morn
To hear a newborn baby’s cry: a nation being born
That call was answered speedily, by many thousand men
To guard a new-found freedom where just colonies had been

The battles raged for many years, and seemed yet never done
New threats arose from time to time; there’s now another one
But staunch defenders did their job, faced combat and disease
And hardships, cold, and toil — we grew stronger by degrees

More battles we would have to fight, more battles did we win
Then came the saddest time; we had to turn our force within
Abe Lincoln lead the nation, and with slavery we dispensed
And slowly healed and grew as the new century commenced

But then the call went out once more, as Europe blazed with war
America was ready — we knew what we’re fighting for
The time of the Depression, it was said, would sap our will
But when our troops were needed, they were strong and able still

We kept the fight, and kept the light, as misery ran deep
And several hundred thousand paid for what we strove to keep
Once Europe’s plague was vanquished, we though then we might relax
But soon the Asian fields were host to Communist attacks

And now jihadists threats, which had been rising up for years
Set sights to end our liberty, the bastion of their fears
The soldiers once again have shown they’re ready for the call
And ready once again, to do their jobs and give their all

And once again we’ll owe, as we have since we’d first begun
Our thanks and praise to veterans — our freedom’s what they’ve won.

A pleasant and thoughtful Sunday to you all.

===|==============/ Keith DeHavelle