“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." These words were spoken by President Abraham Lincoln on March 4, 1865, just 41 days before he was assassinated.
Perhaps Lincoln's murder bears greater witness to the trouble that the country was challenged to face better than any other fact. One wonders what could have helped to change the spirit that was flowing through the land at that time? I read these mighty powerful words and hope that he meant that there should be charity extended to everyone and not only to white people and that he truly wanted to see the country shift to being a place where there was malice toward none. It is important to note that he affirms the idea of God being the one to give the light that makes it possible to see what is right and to strive toward nation healing. So much was upside down in the country.
Though these words were spoken one-hundred and fifty-seven years ago, we can certainly pause to listen to the pleas that are being made by them and interrogate ourselves in this present moment about how we are doing with moving toward having “malice toward none and charity for all.” In this modern era of too much exposure on almost every topic which is the daily diet for far too many of our citizens and unfortunately there is not the same enthusiasm for the deep soul searching “work of binding up the nation's wounds” that looms before us.
As we begin 2022, hopefully we will find more and more ways to stand still and listen to whatever still small voice God/Goddess choose to use to speak a word to us that might set us on a new path. We are being challenged to take stock of ourselves. The Covid-19 pandemic continues to challenge us to care more deeply about one another. The simple matter of being vaccinated holds up a powerful mirror view for us to ponder. So many continue to refuse to be vaccinated and most of the reasons are grounded in something other than being able to be concerned for the common good.
Presently, it appears that there is a lesson to be learned about caring for one another and the class is clearly being continued. Of course folks did not want to care for soldiers, widows and orphans and most white people in the United States in 1865 were not concerned about the plight of the “freed Africans.” When it comes to caring about everyone within our borders, we have not made much progress. Of course things have changed. But the polarizing energy that made January 6, 2021 possible bears witness to the fact that there is much work to be done. We are being invited to a new way to see.
We cannot afford to have large groups of citizens who feel that they are not important and that what concerns them does not matter to anyone except them. And on the other hand, we cannot have citizens who think that they are the only ones who can have what they need and that any other groups seeking to find what they need cannot live side by side with them. A nation cannot have too much of its energy tied up in creating division, denigration, conspiracy theories and fear of one another and expect to thrive. Actually, it cannot expect to continue indefinitely on such a path.
Thus, I join with the Sojourners Community President, Adam Russell Taylor, in the call to make 2022 about Love. It is not the sentimental nonsense that we smear around as a substitute for the love that challenges us to “lay our lives down for those we love.” It is the tough, compassionate truth-telling, willingness to walk a mile in another's shoes gift that will be steadfastly held and shared while walking alongside whoever comes on the path. It is the energy that acts to make the world a place where there is daily striving to become a people with,“ malice toward none and charity for all.” Be a half shade braver everyday!