The lure of good reviews led me to see Steven Spielberg’s newest film, Lincoln, based on a portion of Doris Kearns Goodwin’s book Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln. A major premise of the book is that a good part of Lincoln’s greatness was his ability to work not only with those who agreed with him but also with those who disagreed and were actively being his opponents even as they were his cabinet members. He listened to their different strategies and accomplished his goals: ending slavery via the Thirteenth Amendment and ending the Civil War.
It made me reflect on my own tendency is to seek companionship with those who agree with me. During the recent political campaign I almost unfriended a few people on Facebook whose numerous comments and repostings were opposed to my ideas. Politicians who practice bipartisanship in government are often ostracized by their political parties. All of us have noticed persons and congregations leaving churches because of differences about ordaining women, having female bishops, sharing communion with other churches, or homosexuality.
Jesus doesn’t tell us to avoid those who disagree with us. Instead his instruction in Matthew 5:44-45 is, “But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven.”
One of the most moving scenes in Lincoln is his delivering his Second Inaugural Address saying, “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 do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.”
I pray for help in following our Lord’s directive and Lincoln’s example in dealing with those who disagree with me. And I pray for others join me in that effort.
Phyllis Rude, of Anchorage, Alaska, is a member of the churchwide executive board.