Monday, August 14, 2017

The Battle is Over

I’ve spent the last two weeks writing about the feud between John Quincy Adams and Andrew Jackson; today I want to write about the battle that propelled General Jackson into the national political spotlight: The Battle of New Orleans.

During the War of 1812 the British invaded America and used the Native Americans to fight against their former colonists. While constantly being outnumbered and underfunded, Jackson’s heroics at war rallied his ragtag troops, allowing him to win several key victories. The final, and most popular, of these victories came in New Orleans, where Jackson’s men won a shocking campaign. In the end, 13 Americans were killed and another 39 were wounded; the British casualties were more severe, with 291 killed, 1,262 wounded, and 484 missing or captured. Every one of those lives was lost in vain, for unbeknownst to anyone on the battlefield, the Treaty of Ghent had already been signed, and the war was technically over.

It’s a shame when people fight after the battle has already been won. There is no more victory left to fight for. It is like beating the proverbial dead horse.

That story reminds me of the chorus of a song by MercyMe:

What if I were the one to tell you that the fights already been won?
I think your day is about to get better.
What if I were the one to tell you that the works already been done?
That’s not good news, it’s the best news ever.

Jesus won the ultimate victory at Calvary; He defeated the power of sin and death, and signed Satan’s death warrant. Yet many people today feel like they need to keep fighting to earn their place in heaven, even though the battle is over. Jackson’s troops didn’t hear the “good news” that the battle was over, so they kept fighting. We have the good news, and if we will accept it and trust in the finished work of Jesus, we will be saved.

That really isn’t good news. It’s the best news ever.

Monday, August 7, 2017

Old Grudges

Last week I wrote about President John Quincy Adams and the dismal perception he had of himself. That poor image was nothing compared to the disdain he held for his political rival, the man who cost him a second term in the White House, Andrew Jackson.

Upon hearing that his alma mater was going to confer an honorary degree upon Jackson in 1833, Adams wrote a scathing letter to the president of Harvard. In it he explained why he would not attend the ceremony: “As myself an affectionate child of our Alma Mater, I would not be present to witness her disgrace in conferring her highest literary honor upon a barbarian who could not write a sentence of grammar and hardly could spell his own name.”

Indeed, Jackson was an uneducated, orphaned Southern farmer; in his letters he would not only misspell a large number of his words, but he would frequently misspell the same word different ways in the same piece of correspondence. Be that as it may, Jackson proved to be a successful man, passing the bar exam and making good money as a lawyer in North Carolina, serving as Tennessee’s first member in the House of Representatives and later a senator, and was the first governor of Florida (prior to statehood); he was also a war hero, revered throughout the country for his successes as a general.

Adam’s criticism of Jackson shows that he was still holding a grudge three years after the election. Jackson may have been a “barbarian,” but he was a successful barbarian, and one that had defeated the educated Adams. Holding on to old grudges is not healthy, and it brings out the worst in us. It distorts our view and gives us a wrong perception of reality.

Beyond that, holding on to grudges is wrong because the Bible says it is. Paul told the Ephesian Christians, “Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you (Ephesians 4:31-32).”

Being tenderhearted might not seem like a desired trait between two alpha males who just squared off in their second heated campaign in four years, but it is what God wants from us, and Jesus is our example. If you are holding on to a grudge, don’t be like President Adams; instead, take the advice from Queen Elsa and just let it go. It’s the best way to live.