As Kelly and I prepare to make our way to Washington DC this coming week to cover the inauguration of our 45th President, Donald Trump, I find myself asking, “Is there any civility left today in America?” Allow me to explain.
First, this word “civility” is sort of an old fashioned word today, but its definition means “to be civil, to act in a civil manner; to be courteous, polite, and well mannered.” Of course, there are still a lot of good manners left in our America, and I know so very many polite and courteous people. But I’m wondering how many really uncivil people are going to be in Washington DC next week, determined to break up and smudge out one of so our very important and historical ceremonies which has been with us since our nation’s beginning – our U.S. Presidential Inauguration.
In a recent poll people across America voted for whom they believe to be the greatest presidents in our nation’s history, and there were two that stood out above all the others. One of these was Abraham Lincoln, and the other was our first president, George Washington. Now, it’s been said that George Washington actually had a set of false teeth made of wood. But that doesn’t appear to be true. And the story that as a small boy he chopped down that cherry tree and when asked by his father he said, “I cannot tell a lie, yes I chopped down the tree”? That story doesn’t appear to be true either. But it’s easy to see why that story was believed to be the truth, because George Washington was a man of the highest character and integrity. Even when he was a young boy, still a teenager, he wrote his own, what he called, “Rules of Civility and Decent Behavior”. Listen to a few of his over 100 rules to being a civil person. He said:
- For every action done in company there should be respect for those present.
- Don’t sleep when others are speaking.
Don’t sit when others are standing.
- Don’t speak when you should hold your tongue.
- Don’t show gladness in the misfortune of others, even if they’re your enemy.
- Use no reproachful language against anyone, neither curse nor revile.
- Associate yourself with men of good quality if you esteem your own reputation, for it is better to be alone than in bad company.
You get the idea – don’t be rude and mean and impolite and disrespectful. As a young boy, George Washington wrote these rules of civility and it seemed he worked his entire life to live by each of these, and, because of it, he was highly admired and respected. And later, even after he became a man of great power and position he continued to conduct himself in this same manner; Very impressive.
Amazingly, all this attention and admiration didn’t go to his head. He continued to be a very modest man, even shy. In 1776, when the Continental Congress began to discuss just who would lead the colonial forces against the British army, and George Washington’s name came up, he immediately left the room, because he was too embarrassed to hear them speak so highly of him. And when he accepted the position he said, “I beg it to be remembered by every gentlemen in this room that I this day declare with the utmost sincerity that I do not think myself equal to the command I am honored with”. What an amazing man George Washington was.
One of the big reasons why America won the war for independence was that the colonists and the soldiers genuinely loved and respected him. Many of the soldiers, long after their tour of duty had expired, would actually stay to fight with Washington because they believed in the cause, and, most of all, they believed in George Washington.
But I believe the one thing that made George Washington the great man he was, was that he was God’s man for that time in history. You see, all through history we read stories of people who have been given a special gift or ability to accomplish a seemingly impossible task. It’s like it’s their destiny in life, and everything I read shows this to be true regarding Washington. He was destined to lead America to freedom. You see, according to many accounts, he had already had some close brushes with death in the French and Indian War and he should have died long before the Revolutionary War even began. And just how did he account for it? He said, “By the all powerful dispensations of Providence, I have been protected beyond all human probabilities”. Washington knew he was being protected by God.
And when George Washington went into battle, he never went without first asking for God’s help. There is one written account of a messenger looking for General Washington with an important message. As he searched the woods, finally, he found Washington on his knees. At first he thought the general was sick or injured, but as the messenger drew closer, he saw that George Washington was on his knees praying. You see, George Washington was a man who prayed for America. And God used him to give America, and us, our freedom.
Later in life Washington would recall his mother’s very words when he had left home as a young man. She had said, “Son, remember that God is your only sure trust.”
Wouldn’t it be great if today Americans all across our great land would follow George Washington’s mother’s powerful advice and place our country, our families, and our very lives, into the trust of Almighty God.
My word for you today? Civility. Do your best in all you do to be strong and courageous as you stand up for what you know to be good and right. But make sure that as you stand, you also maintain a proper spirit of civility.
Please pray for me and for Kelly this week
as we travel into the unknown of this upcoming Inauguration event;
that we honor God
with courage and civility.