With Malice Toward None
A mere forty-one days before his assassination, Abraham Lincoln delivered his second inaugural address. His speech contained 701 words and took less than five minutes to deliver. Amazingly, it was longer than his Gettysburg address, which had only 272 words and was delivered in less than three minutes. Perhaps there is a great lesson here for public speakers, but I will leave it unsaid lest I indict myself.
The Civil War was winding down when Lincoln delivered his second inaugural address on March 4, 1865. Lee would surrender to Grant at the Appomattox Court House on April 9, and on April 15, an assassin’s bullet would end the sixteenth president’s life.
The most remembered lines of Lincoln’s speech from the capitol steps are these:
“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.”
Compassion and grace permeated his words. There was no indication of any sense of vengeance in his heart.
On April 4, shortly before the official conclusion of the war, Lincoln visited Richmond, the capital of the Confederacy. The southern army had just withdrawn its troops from Richmond a couple of days before. Lincoln even visited the office of Jefferson Davis, the president of the southern states. He was asked by one of his own men how the south was to be treated, and he responded, “If I were in your place, I’d let ’em up easy.”
In the light of the timing of this article (January 20, 2021), it may appear that I’m endeavoring to make a political point. In reality, though, I am writing this to remind believers how we are to treat others who have erred, are struggling, or have questions. Here are three passages of Scripture that I believe convey very timely truths.
Galatians 6:1 (TPT)
My beloved friends, if you see a believer who is overtaken with a fault, may the one who overflows with the Spirit seek to restore him. Win him over with gentle words, which will open his heart to you and will keep you from exalting yourself over him.
Romans 14:1 (MSG)
Welcome with open arms fellow believers who don’t see things the way you do. And don’t jump all over them every time they do or say something you don’t agree with—even when it seems that they are strong on opinions but weak in the faith department. Remember, they have their own history to deal with. Treat them gently.
Colossians 3:5-6 (NASB2000)
Conduct yourselves with wisdom toward outsiders, making the most of the opportunity. Your speech must always be with grace, as though seasoned with salt, so that you will know how you should respond to each person.
May graciousness reign in our hearts and in our lives.
Those interested can hear Lincoln’s second inaugural address narrated at https://www.nps.gov/linc/learn/historyculture/lincoln-second-inaugural.htm
Bible teacher and author Tony Cooke graduated from RHEMA Bible Training Center in 1980 and received degrees from North Central University (Bachelor’s in Church Ministries) and Liberty University (Master’s in Theological Studies/Church History).
His ministerial background includes pastoral ministry, teaching in Bible schools, and directing a ministerial association. Tony’s passion for teaching the Bible has taken him to more than thirty nations and nearly all fifty states. He is the author of a dozen books, of which, various titles have been translated and published in eight other languages. Tony and his wife, Lisa, reside in Broken Arrow, Oklahoma, and are the parents of two adult children.