In her best-selling book, Team of Rivals, author Doris Kearns Goodwin describes the day that Abraham Lincoln took office as President of the United States. Unlike his predecessor, James Buchanan, who limited his Cabinet to “like-minded” people from the same political party, Lincoln shocked the nation by selecting for his cabinet representatives of the Republican Party, the Democratic Party, and the Whig Party! In fact, Lincoln even chose his three chief rivals for the Republican nomination: William Seward of New York, Salmon Chase of Ohio, and Edward Bates of Missouri. When Joseph Medill, a journalist from the Chicago Tribune, asked Lincoln why he would choose his political enemies as members of his Cabinet, Lincoln replied, “I did not want to deprive the American people of their most brilliant and gifted leaders… just because of a few political disagreements.” Many people have described Lincoln’s Cabinet as the most unusual in history… but possibly the most effective in history. Lincoln’s Cabinet revealed that hard-liners needed conciliators, and conciliators needed hard-liners. Lincoln believed that the nation was stronger when the President was surrounded by a Cabinet with diverse political views.
Where did President Lincoln get the idea to put such a diverse Cabinet together? Was it in his mind? His heart? His soul? I believe that the idea came from his “eyes.” Remember what Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount, “The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eye is healthy your whole body will be filled with light but if your eye is unhealthy, your whole body will be filled with darkness.” The etymology of the word for a “healthy” eye is instructive. In the Greek language, the word for a “healthy” eye is literally “a generous eye… or an open eye.” This kind of eye gives people and circumstances the benefit of the doubt. It is open to what a person or an event has to offer. It is open to God’s perspective in a situation. It doesn’t try to “prejudge” people or circumstances, but rather is open to let them “speak” for themselves. This is contrasted with “an unhealthy eye.” Literally, in the Greek language, an unhealthy eye is a “grudging eye” or a “closed eye.” This kind of eye “prejudges” people and circumstances. It says, “I’ve seen that kind of person before… or, I’ve seen that kind of circumstance before. I know how this is going to turn out. Or, I know what that kind of person is going to do.” A closed eye, of course, leads to prejudice.
So many times, I have missed a unique opportunity for a friendship or an opportunity to learn from a situation because my focus was misplaced. I had an unhealthy eye. The Bible is replete with stories of “unlikely people” to be God’s representatives in the world. But God sees through unlikely people to who they can become. God saw through Saul, the Jewish Pharisee who persecuted the early Christians… to Paul, the great evangelist of the early church. Like Almighty God, President Lincoln had the capacity to see through people to who they could become. He realized that his Cabinet would be stronger if it had people from different points of view in it who could strengthen each other and bring out the best in each other. As the Book of Proverbs says, “Like iron sharpens iron, one person sharpens another.” (Proverbs 27:17.) Lincoln became a stronger leader by looking at people with a “healthy eye.”
God is asking us as followers of Jesus Christ to open our eyes to the opportunities and possibilities all around us. This is a unique moment in history. So many people in the church are discouraged with the decline in mainline Protestantism, but actually this is a magnificent time to call people to a deeper walk with God. People are thirsty for God…even if they don’t know it. So often ministry opportunities are right in front of us, but we are so focused on the crisis or the obstacles that we don’t even see the opportunities. As Pastor Charles Swindoll says, “The greatest opportunities of our lives come to us brilliantly disguised as seemingly insolvable problems.”
Are you willing to join me in the prayer that God will help us look at life through Kingdom of God eyes today? If so, BEWARE… that our perspective might change! And we might start to see people for who they really are. Like Abraham Lincoln…and Jesus!
- Can you think of a time in your life when you have misjudged someone/and “wrote someone off” and then discovered later that they were a person you really appreciated and respected?
- Has anyone ever misjudged or prejudged you? How did that make you feel?