The immortal words from Abraham Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address—with malice toward none, with charity for all—reminds me of the great civil war that rages within our souls in the aftermath of hurt and deception. The pain we experience forces us to make a choice. We can trust God for healing, “My comfort in my suffering is this: Your promise preserves my life” (Psalm 119:50). Or we can rely on ourselves and seek “comfort” in thoughts of revenge.
Someone has described the initial taste of malice as judgment light. It does not, initially, carry all the calories of a hard, judgmental spirit. So what if I indulge in a little resentment? Ruminate on how I’ve been treated unfairly? But the more we feed it, the larger it grows until our once thriving confidence in God is consumed by the never-satisfied appetite of malice. Before we know it, our bloated bitterness squeezes out the Holy Spirit.
Countering malice, as Lincoln penned, lies in cultivating charity. The magnanimous nature of God’s grace offers believers an entrée to generous, forgiving love. We access it every time we decide to entrust our hurts to the Lord. He is able to keep us from a hypocrisy that speaks cordially on the outside but harbors malice on the inside.
It will protect our soul…if not our body.
Ironically, Lincoln—whose highest goal was to help a torn nation reunite—became a victim of the malice he sought so tirelessly to abolish. The bullet that penetrated Lincoln’s brain was fired by a man consumed with hatred and misguided egotism. History reports the comfort John Wilkes Booth thought he would find in revenge was short-lived. It always is. Only charity—only love—lasts. It transcends earth. It preserves our lives for eternity.
So when malice invites you to sit at his table, refuse! Instead choose to feast on what is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, and admirable (Philippians 4:8). Don’t put your soul at risk. There is nothing anyone has done to you that warrants surrendering to malice. As we commemorate Abraham Lincoln’s birthday this month, be inspired by his example. He was bigger than malice.
And so are you, dear child of God….