We are approaching the final days in the life of Jesus Christ. As thoughts crowd in, I often turn to writing to process my thoughts.
The life and writings of Blaise Pascal, the 17th Century French mathematician, physicist and inventor, who is said to be father of the computer, have intrigued me. Pascal in writing about his faith reflected: “There is a God-created vacuum in the heart of every man which cannot be satisfied by a created thing, but only by God, the creator made known through Jesus Christ.”
The phrase “made known through Jesus Christ” is both profound and controversial. Profound because Pascal, the scientist, needed history to support his heart’s need and controversial because non-Christian religions do not accept Christ as savior. Yet, Jesus Christ is often cited universally as the only perfect man—Jesus as an exemplar. And regarding gender, it should be noted that many of Jesus’s most devoted and exemplary followers were women. Humankind, not just mankind.
If Jesus can be understood as an exemplar, should we measure our own lives by his Sermon on the Mount, for example? What about neighbors; how should we treat them—writ small and large?
But just as Pascal, the scientist, needed to search for concrete proofs of the unprovable and going beyond his heart’s voice found in the history of Jesus, affirmation, let me suggest a more contemporary pathway for us. At least it helps me.
Abraham Lincoln was born February 12, 1809. His life has been researched and chronicled more than any other American. Lincoln, like us, was not perfect. Indeed, the last place most would look for perfection would be in the political class. Lincoln became a war president, first to hold the union of states, and then to end slavery. He hired Generals who deployed soldiers to kill the Confederates who took to the battlefield to preserve disunion and slavery. Perfect, no. But he was often on his knees searching for God’s direction – his heart required it.
Together with a successful war to hold the union and end slavery, he authored the Emancipation Proclamation, the Gettysburg Address and the Second Inaugural address just weeks before he was assassinated. He ended his second inaugural address with these words: “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 bind up the nation’s wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.”
I believe that Lincoln found what God offers. A voice in the silence. And perhaps a muse, not any muse but a transcendent one. Too often we see God, through Jesus Christ or not, as an interventionist. As a force that will intervene in our world and make right what we believe is not right.
I also know what happens when we try to fill our heart’s vacuum through political power. Jesus in his day was often attacked because of the company he kept. The Religious authorities (politicians) were looking for an ultimate King; what the world got, what humans got, was a savior.
Filling the vacuum in our hearts is not easy work. It requires going much deeper than most are willing to go. But for all those who have a heart whisperer—a spiritual presence—pay attention to what people do, not what they say. Lincoln lived large, but in a sense those in today’s world who love their neighbors every single day are also living large because they are listening to their hearts. Love, divine love, is present all around us.
Lincoln’s life and death gave humankind a more contemporary, indeed a historical understanding of a human who understood God not through “call and response” but through God’s presence in his heart.
Good Friday, just several days from now, is also called Great Friday, Black Friday and Holy Friday. The one thing we know for sure is that history records this coming Friday like no other one.
Abraham Lincoln’s words often cut through the noise, so let me close with his words: “When any church will inscribe over its altar, as its sole qualification for membership, the Savior’s condensed statement of the substance of both law and Gospel, ‘Thou shalt love the lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul and thy neighbor as thyself’ that church will I join with all my heart and all my soul.”
Al Sikes is the former Chair of the Federal Communications Commission under George H.W. Bush. Al writes on themes from his book, Culture Leads Leaders Follow published by Koehler Books.