Lincoln – Review
He had just won a re-election. The people loved him. Why mess up a good thing by making an issue out of something as controversial and unnecessary as abolishing slavery? At least, that’s what Abe Lincoln’s advisors cautioned him. The true abolitionists were seen as radicals. Lincoln’s supporters and the Republican party in general were not necessarily for abolition as a cause in and of itself. In fact, many of them were not particularly in favor of the abolition of slavery at all (mostly because of the implications that came with it—abolition didn’t just mean the end of slavery, but the beginning of equality, and that was going a bit too far), unless it was the only real means to the end of the war. Many people who were on the fence or even slightly against the idea of abolition were so thoroughly for the idea of ending the war that they were willing to support the 13th amendment, if and only if, it would put an end to the Civil War by taking away the South’s incentive to continue fighting.
This is the dilemma in which Abraham Lincoln found himself. His advisors, friends, even his wife, all were cautioning him not to pick a fight about the abolition of slavery. They advised him to just win the war with out trying to pass the 13th amendment because the 13th amendment would make enemies. Don’t rock the boat; keep everyone happy; stay the popular hero—that was the general consensus among his trusted advisors.
Lincoln however had a conviction that, at the end of the day, he would stand before God and answer to Him for the choices he made. He chose to live by his convictions, not by popular opinion, and he gave incredible grace to others to do the same, even when their convictions were contrary to his. Lincoln’s overwhelming conviction was that slavery was wrong and needed to be abolished. “We’re stepped out upon the world’s stage now, now, with the fate of human dignity in our hands! Blood’s been spilt to afford us this moment!” “Abolishing slavery by constitutional provision settles the fate, for all coming time, not only of the millions now in bondage but of unborn millions to come.” To win the war without abolishing slavery was to render the war pointless. Lincoln felt that the only way to redeem the lives that had been lost, the blood and suffering, was to purchase freedom with those sacrifices.
It’s an incredible movie, about an incredible man, a man of character and conviction and passion and grace…a true hero. The kind of person the world needs more of. The kind of person the world needs to be reminded of, because in our day and time, we have lost a sense of the heroic in our ridiculous obsession with the celebrity and the popular. Sadly, it’s even gotten to the point that the “anti-hero” is exalted – the person who runs from trouble, who is shameless in their squeamishness, laziness and general lack of character. We exalt them because they are “real,” we say, and because they make us laugh and feel better about ourselves, when what we really need is not to be comfortable with our deficiencies, but to be sharpened to become better.
The message of character is for everyone, no matter what your spiritual background, but I want to make a more direct connection to Christ with this one. Abraham Lincoln was committed to bringing freedom to all mankind, especially to those enslaved, no matter the cost. He felt the reward was greater than anything it might cost him or the nation he loved.
The message of freedom is one of my absolute favorite things about the Bible. Jesus was so committed to freeing mankind from the bondage and death of sin that He came to earth and sacrificed His very life for it. His commitment to freedom also started a war and many of his followers lost their lives in the wave of religious persecution that followed. He gave everything so that we “might have life and have it abundantly” (John 10:10). I love how Isaiah 61:1 puts it, “The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the poor; he has sent me to bind up the broken-hearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound.”
Surely Lincoln was following in the footsteps of Jesus as he proclaimed liberty to the captives and opened the chains of those who were bound in prisons of slavery. You and I may not ever be in a position to free someone in that kind of literal, physical slavery (even though it certainly still exists throughout the world) but that doesn’t mean that we cannot still follow in the steps of Jesus and Lincoln, setting captives free. The bondage in the lives of the people around us is more subtle, perhaps than in the time of Lincoln, but it’s still there. People are still enslaved to sin, to drugs, medications, depression, grief, etc. They are enslaved to the opinions of others, to “keeping up with the Jones’,” to materialism, to ideas of beauty and success, to security, to ease, to all manner of escapism, to pornography, to good works and performance… The list goes on and on, and Jesus came to free us from it, and He has invited us to enlist in His army and fight to set others free as well.
Don’t you see that we ought to be just as fiercely committed to bringing freedom to the captives in our lifetime as Lincoln was in his, and more importantly, as Jesus was in His? “How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news,” (Isaiah 52:7). What better news is there than the message of freedom? Jesus brought it; Lincoln brought it; now it’s our turn to bring the message to the captives, “Liberty in Jesus!”
Questions for Discussion:
- What elements of Lincoln’s character stood out to you the most?
- Have you ever had to choose between popular opinion and your convictions on something? How did you choose? What were the results? Would you do it differently if you had to do it over?
- How aware are you of the slavery and bondage in the world today?
- How aware are you of the spiritual slavery and bondage not only in the world at large, but in the lives of people you know?
- Have you found freedom in your own life, or are there things which still hold you captive?
- Have you tasted the freedom Jesus came to bring to you?
Read thoughts on the compass discussion between Lincoln and Stevens here. (And a further blog about compromising your compass here.)
Read a collection of quotes from the movie here.
By Stacey Tuttle