Truth and Irony

Behind the frowns of life there is a smile of grace

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Rearview Beauty

Most have heard the old cliche, hindsight is 20/20. There is no great mystery as to what that means. Simply stated, when we have the advantage of experience and the ability to look back over what has been done, we can see clearly how things should have transpired. That is one of the richest gifts of recorded history. History gives humanity that gift and affords us the opportunity of concentrated observation. Now, we must always wade through the biases and incongruities of the historians, but history gives us a chance to examine life and with some measure of accuracy, to appreciate things that were not readily apparent in the moment they happened.

One example of this is seen in the life of the 2nd president of the United States, John Adams. I am currently reading David McCullough’s, John Adams, and I confess, in my American History classes, I was taught very little about Adams. In all candor, it was exactly as John Adams predicted in his lifetime: when the Revolution is mentioned, it would be accredited to Franklin, Washington, and Jefferson. Now however, having had the opportunity to read about John Adams, we can clearly see how integral his role was in seeing the United States formed and nurtured. He was criticized and hated by many in the moment, yet his role in the establishment of the nation is second to none.

Adams was a man of many imperfections, which he readily acknowledged, but he was also a man of principle. In fact, even those who disliked him complimented him on his unwavering steadfastness to what was right. Principle is one of those qualities that we typically revere and cherish in retrospect. That is, we love to look back over history and admire the men and woman who stood upon principle, but often times in the moment they are the target of disdain. At this very point, we must appreciate history. John Adams once said that facts are very stubborn things because eventually they reveal the truth. I wonder, how many present “villains” will be justified in the annals of history as men and women who were steadfast in their stance for what is right…

Principle is a costly endeavor, hence, not very many are willing to stand there. Principle cost Adams another term in office. Principle cost Adams friends and relationships. Yet, the principle of John Adams preserved our foreign policy without war with France, and the principle of John Adams made America a better place. Now he is venerated, but once he was vilified. Similarly, the church is at the precipice of transformation. We have sacrificed much principle for the sake of appealing to the masses, and to what end? We don’t need academics and scholars to sort out all the issues, although, their work in the church is helpful. What we need is simple. To put it in Pauline terms, we need men and women who are steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord because we know our labor in the Lord is not in vain. We are not living for the present, we are living for eternity with Christ and should He tarry, we are living for posterity. History will rectify the the principled; God’s justice demands it. May we stand as our forebears did! May principle and steadfastness define us and not the vain glory that has captured much of humanity.