Are you worried about the conversation around your Thanksgiving table? Have you determined that the subject of politics is banned until after the pumpkin pie? Is there a member of your family that would rather not come home this year? According to a recent Reuters’ poll, almost fifteen percent are saying that they are not speaking to certain members of their family. If your house is divided, what is your hope?
Abraham Lincoln had just been nominated as a candidate for the Senate when he gave his famous “a house divided” speech. It was the summer of 1858 and Lincoln’s speech was called “morally courageous but politically incorrect.” One of his friends called it “unfortunate” while another questioned Lincoln about his refusal to address his critics. Lincoln lost his bid for the Senate that year, but later his speech was credited with helping him win the presidency. One man said, “Through logic inductively seen, Lincoln as a statesman, and political philosopher, announced an eternal truth—not only as broad as America, but covers the world.”
Lincoln had quoted Jesus in his speech. All three synoptic gospels record Jesus saying, “A house divided against itself cannot stand.” Lincoln’s friend wanted him to speak up and tell the world that the thought was not his, it was the Lord’s. But Lincoln wouldn’t defend himself or his words, he allowed history to do that for him.
Jesus had used those words to address the Jewish leaders who claimed he was using the power of Satan to cast out demons. Jesus responded to them saying, “How can Satan cast out Satan? If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand” (Mark 3:23–25).
Abraham Lincoln used Jesus’ words to speak to the issue of slavery. Lincoln didn’t believe the country could survive unless the states came to a consensus. Lincoln said, “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. It will become all one thing or all the other.” After the most catastrophic war in American history, the nation came to a unified position and outlawed slavery. It is estimated that 620,000 Americans lost their lives in the Civil War. That number is just a little less than every other war combined. The laws changed, but a lot of people in our country still feel like they are fighting the war.
Godly Christians stand on both sides of the political structure. There are probably family members on both sides as well. President Lincoln has a good word for every Thanksgiving table. Quote Jesus and then live quietly with his truth. We can allow history to prove the reality of God’s word because it can never be disproven. In the meantime, pray for our nation (and our families) to come to a place of peaceful agreement. A student of the Civil War will tell you that at the end of the conflict, everyone had experienced tremendous loss, not because of the cause, but because of the way our people chose to fight for it.
Lincoln spoke the words of Christ and allowed history to prove them true. Those words are still true today, because the truth was God’s. What do you want your family to talk about around the Thanksgiving table? What do you want them to agree on when they return home? How will you speak about the things that unite, rather than the things that divide?
Lincoln said, “America will never be destroyed from the outside. If we falter and lose our freedoms, it will be because we destroyed ourselves.” Those are somber words to consider for our nation. But Paul gave us a message for our Thanksgiving tables. He wrote:
Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. (Colossians 3:12–15)
We are blessed to live in this country but we are blessed eternally through our citizenship in heaven. One day, that citizenship will be the only one that matters. Happy Thanksgiving to each of you—and to your families. “Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts . . . and be thankful.”
Join us at www.christianparenting.org and chime in on this week’s discussion question: How do you promote a peaceful Thanksgiving family get-together?