The question posited by Abraham Lincoln at Gettysburg one-hundred fifty-seven years ago may well be one that we find ourselves asking again today. Can our nation “so conceived and so dedicated long endure?” How was she conceived? and how dedicated? Lincoln’s address to those assembled on that day, November 19th, 1863 answers that question this way.
He explained that our new nation was “conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.” The great experiment. At that time the United States was a mere eighty-seven years old and failing to live up to her promise of equality for all. But many were willing to lay down their lives to ensure that this nation did extend that promise of liberty and equality to each and every person.
And lay down their lives they did. The Gettysburg Address was delivered at the dedication of a plot of land that was to become Soldier’s National Cemetery. That’s why Lincoln and the others had gathered at Gettysburg on that November day. They had come to honor and to bury those who had already given their lives so that others might live – but not just live, live free. Freedom is not cheap. It comes at a cost. And the cost was already high.
Some are willing to pay the price. Men such as Patrick Henry who famously said, “Give me liberty or give me death.” To some life is not worth living if they are not free to choose how they will live.
I was reminded of this just this morning in church. Two people spoke to us this morning, a man from Jordan and a woman from the DRC. (Democratic Republic of the Congo) Both had experienced persecution for practicing their faith, which put their lives in danger. They had fled to the U.S. several years ago and are now both citizens of our country.
Today, they shared their stories with us. They told us that we can’t truly appreciate how rare and wonderful this country is, because we have never known anything different. We have not experienced what those around the globe experience on a daily basis. I confess – I too often take for granted all the freedoms I enjoy, including the freedom to worship God openly. I have these freedoms because others purchased and secured them for me at a price. The price? Their lives.
To the rest of the world the United States is a symbol of hope, a beacon of light, a last bastion of freedom. Must be why so many risk so much to come here. Like the two individuals who came to my church this morning, they are seeking their God given, unalienable rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, which their own countries have denied them.
And so the question of Gettysburg remains with us today, how long can this nation endure? There are those who would tear her down and see her burn. Democracy does not work well, when dead peoples’ voices are heard while the voices of the living are disregarded, silenced or remain silent. Democracy dies when we choose comfort over conscience, complacence over courage and silence over speaking out.
May the light of freedom not be extinguished on our watch. The world is watching.
“You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden.” (Matthew 5:14)
“For God is the King of all the earth; sing to Him a psalm of praise. God reigns over the nations; God is seated on His holy throne. The nobles of the nations assemble as the people of the God of Abraham, for the kings of the earth belong to God; He is greatly exalted.” (Psalm 47:7-9)
sincerely, Grace Day