Abraham Lincoln is rightly praised as one of the greatest presidents in American history. When he left Springfield, Illinois after a 25 year residency, headed for the White House, he delivered a powerful speech to the public, bidding them farewell, and declaring these words: “I go to assume a task more difficult than that which devolved upon General Washington. Unless the great God who assisted him, shall be with and aid me, I cannot succeed. With His assistance, I cannot fail.”
His words have been echoing in my spirit all day as we have prayed for the state of Illinois here in the capitol city of Springfield. Illinois loves it’s association with Lincoln, and indeed in this city that historic relationship is milked to the maximum. The problem however is that Illinois’ current reputation does not match the historical assessment of their hero. Here in Springfield, “Honest Abe’s” political descendants have not always been examples of financial or political integrity.
It is a common human frailty to salvage a reputation by hitching our destiny to the rising star of a nobler name. Have you ever chatted with an incessant name dropper? It is like a torture session, as their inferiority spills out in a transparent effort to impress. And sadly, you both realize that the association is a fantasy at best. They are nothing at all like the one whose name they wear as their calling card.
I pray today, for myself and for all of God’s people, that we will not hijack the name of Jesus by simply coasting on His reputation, without emulating His character. I don’t want to celebrate the perks of our association, but then simultaneously trivialize those things that drove Him to the Cross. I don’t want the church world to become a tourist town, boasting of our relationship with a historical hero, but forgetting that hero’s profession of absolute dependence on Divine assistance, for it was Jesus who said “I can do nothing of my own will”, and Lincoln who said, “without the assistance of God, I cannot succeed”.
If we desire to bear His name, then let us wear it honorably. And YES, let us wear it…it is our blood purchased right, and no one can revoke that privilege. But again, let us conduct ourselves in a manner that is befitting such a privilege. Illinois declares itself to be “The Land of Lincoln”. We the Church declare ourselves to be “The Bride of our Lord Jesus Christ”. We pray today for the people of Illinois and the people of God, for both to do justice to that noblest of names.