Recently, I felt compelled to read the memoirs of the Confederate General Robert E. Lee. He is considered to be one of the greatest military leaders of all time, as well as one of the most truly noble in character to have been produced by this country. In many ways, he demonstrated remarkable graciousness and nobility of character, which actually caused him to be almost as beloved in the North as he was in the South after the Civil War. He was regarded as one of the truly Christian men of his time, yet there are some profound inconsistencies in his life that I have not yet seen addressed by any of his biographers. These inconsistencies with what he claimed to have believed, probably caused the deaths of tens of thousands of people, not to mention the ravaging of a nation. Should we not at least try to understand them?
I am not bringing these issues up to defame Robert E. Lee. He was truly a remarkable leader and person. Even so, I believe the same kind of inconsistencies, which are actually contradictions, are today doing great damage within the church, and within our nation. They will continue to ravage us if we do not understand them.
The inconsistencies in Robert E. Lee’s actions are highlighted by two of his writings before the Civil War. In one, he gave what must be considered one of the most articulate, concise, and powerful arguments ever written on the evils of slavery. In the second, he did the same for the potential evils and tragedies that would follow the secession of the Southern states from the Union. Yet, he was the most effective warrior on the side that fought for the very things he obviously believed to be great evils. How could this happen? How was it that so many of our founding fathers, who decried the evils of slavery, owned slaves? How could a man who so decried this as one of the “great evils,” fight so valiantly for the right to have slaves?
In Robert E. Lee’s case, the contradiction between his stated beliefs and his actions happened because he said he could not take up arms against his native state of Virginia. That may seem like a noble loyalty, but is it noble when that state was fighting to preserve something he believed to be evil? Was it right to be loyal to his state and disloyal to the Union that he had sworn an oath to defend when he was an officer in the United States Army? Many others who fought on the side of the South in the Civil War, also declared themselves to be against slavery and secession. How could they fight so hard for the things they did not believe in? How do we?
Could it be the same thing that compels people to fight for their denomination, or other institutions, even when those institutions are in conflict with some of the basic truths of the Scripture, and at times the very nature of Christ? Spurgeon once declared that he could find ten men to die for the Bible for every one who would read it! Could this basic hypocrisy be the cause of the civil wars now raging within the body of Christ?
Loyalty is a good and noble characteristic, but we must never let our loyalty to an institution, to a group (such as fraternal orders), or a person, eclipse our loyalty to the Lord Jesus Himself, or to the principles of truth found in the Scriptures. The basic way we can avoid this is not to make vows of allegiance to any organization or group that could lead to a conflict with our allegiance to the Lord and His truth.
Integrity means “to be whole,” consistency between our beliefs and our actions. It is this consistency between the Lord’s Word and His actions that is basic to His nature. This should also be basic to the nature of all of His true followers. Is it our nature? Where might the conflicts be in our own lives?
The inability of Robert E. Lee to see the conflict between his proclaimed beliefs and his actions cost untold thousands of young men their lives, since it was his genius that prolonged the war for years beyond what it would have otherwise taken for the Union to prevail. Such a dichotomy in our lives may not be that costly, but there is always a cost. We may not know until eternity just how many would otherwise have been able to receive the truth of the gospel, if its messengers’ lives reflected its message with more integrity.
~ Pastor Rick Joyner
|Pastor Rick Joyner is the founder and executive director of MorningStar Ministries and Heritage International Ministries and is the Senior Pastor of MorningStar Fellowship Church.|