Lincoln and Francis Schaeffer Help us Remember and Give Thanks on Memorial Day

Two of the most majestic, stirring places to visit in Washington DC are the Lincoln Memorial and Arlington cemetery. Our images of both from a trip during cherry blossom season serve as a perfect backdrop to this tribute to all those who have given their lives to protect ours.

Way back in high school our chorale memorized Lincoln’s Gettysburg address set to beautiful music. I sang it softly as I read the entire address, engraved on the south wall of Lincoln’s memorial. I’m so grateful to Lincoln for capturing in such beautiful language the remembrance of the sacrifice of the fallen, giving thanks, and offering great inspiration from it as we navigate our civil war of worldviews and values.

The Gettysburg Address:

Now we are engaged in a great civil war testing whether that nation…

or any nation so conceived and so dedicated can long endure.

We are met on a great battlefield of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field…

…as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live.

It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this. But in a larger sense, we cannot dedicate, we cannot consecrate, we cannot hallow this ground.

The brave men living and dead who struggled here have consecrated it far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here. But it will never forget what they did here.

It is for us the living rather to be dedicated here to the unfinished work that those who fought here 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 to which they gave the last full measure of devotion.

That we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain. That this nation under God shall have a new birth of freedom.

And that this government of the people, by the people, for the people shall not perish from the earth.

As theologian Francis Schaeffer reminds us, the Judeo-Christian worldview on which our nation was founded has as its central focus the call to each individual to be reconciled to God by faith and to love God by keeping his commands. That common commitment to God and his Word has produced a common consensus as to what is good, true and beautiful. What is morally right and just.

In his Christian Manifesto Schaeffer wrote, “The Judeo-Christian consensus gave greater freedoms than the world has ever known, but it also contained the freedoms so that they did not pound society to pieces. The materialistic concept of reality would not have produced a form-freedom balance and now that it has taken over, it cannot maintain the balance. It has destroyed it.”

In How Shall We Then Live? Schaeffer gave a prophetic warning, ” When freedom destroys order the yearning for order will destroy freedom. At that point, the words left or right will make no difference. They are only two roads to the same end. There is no difference between an authoritarian government from the right or the left. The results are the same.

“And an elite authoritarianism as such will gradually force form on society so that it will not go on to chaos. And most people will accept it from the desire for personal peace and affluence, from apathy, and from the yearning for order to assure the functioning of some political system, business, and the affairs of daily life.”

As Galadriel said in Lord of the Rings, our “quest [for freedom] stands upon the edge of a knife. Stray but a little, and it will fail, to the ruin of all. Yet hope remains while the Company is true.”

Hope remains because Jesus is building his church, keeping the Company true, and “the gates of hell will not prevail against it” (Matt 16:18). Still, we may have to sacrifice greatly to preserve the right to life. To preserve the freedom of speech to teach our children that a man is a man, and a woman is a woman as God made them and sees them. To hold to the truth that corresponds to reality as God made it and God sees it. To love well when people’s hearts are growing cold “because of lawlessness” (Matt 24:12).

Let us take courage from the example of our countrymen who sacrificed “the last full measure of devotion.” And from the Lord Jesus who sacrificed his life and then rose again to overcome sin and death. Let us contend for our freedoms within the bounds of his commands now, knowing we will live in Jesus’ loving presence forever.

Lael writes and speaks about faith and culture and how God renews our vision and desire for Him and his Kingdom. She earned a master's degree (MAT) in the history of ideas from the University of Texas at Dallas, and has taught Western culture and apologetics at secular and Christian schools and colleges. Her long-term experience with rheumatoid arthritis and being a pastor’s wife has deepened her desire to minister to the whole person—mind, heart, soul and spirit. Lael has co-hosted a talk radio program, The Things That Matter Most, on secular stations in Houston and Dallas about what we believe and why we believe it with guests as diverse as Dr. Deepak Chopra, atheist Sam Harris and VeggieTales creator Phil Vischer. (Programs are archived on the website.) Lael has authored four books, including a March 2011 soft paper edition of A Faith and Culture Devotional (now titled Faith and Culture: A Guide to a Culture Shaped by Faith), Godsight, and Worldproofing Your Kids. Lael’s writing has also been featured in Focus on the Family and World magazines, and she has appeared on many national radio and television programs. Lael and her husband, Jack, now make their home in South Carolina.

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