Selfish Monuments …Good morning Hump Day readers. I know this title may have you wondering what my brain is up to, but hang in there, you’ll get it! Not that I want to belabor the Jan 6 Insurrection hearings, but as I do watch or listen, there is something that flows through my mind and I have wrestled with how to describe it by words and now I got it—SELFISHNESS. So, I went back into my volumes of stories I save, knowing there was something about our national monuments that would help me craft a devotion. An hour later, I found it. I confess I need to be much better on categorizing my files!
In 1994, when sufficient funds were ready to renovate some of the crumbling stone, window problems, etc, at the Washington Monument, the workers discovered graffiti!—not like the graffiti we see today. This was a deep etching into a layer of stone that read, “Whoever is the human instrument under God in the conversion of one soul, erects a monument to his own memory more lofty and enduing [sic] than this.” The inscription was signed with the initials, BFB and to this day it is unknown who BFB was. After all, it was inscribed in the late 1800’s where the monument was always open and had no security. The Park Service decided to leave it there because of the power of the words and its history. Smart thinking!
The New York Times ran the story making headlines across the country. Many people couldn’t believe someone would “tag” in such a hallowed place. Yet, a young history professor at a small college which is mostly African-American students, had a different idea. He said “This is exactly what George Washington would say. He was a man of humility and faith. His slaves were part of his family and well-taken care of even after he and Martha died. I can’t say this for truth, but it would not surprise me one bit if one of his slaves carved that into the stone to remind people that a humble spirit makes a great man and leader.”
As I watch the mess of Jan. 6 insurrection, I see nothing about humility and everything about selfishness…erecting “monuments to self.” What a sad bunch of men and women who took an oath to defend our democracy…and instead are tearing it apart and seem to have absolutely no care that they knowingly have broken many laws! If Washington could come back in a time-warp to see this “circus act” he would have some very strong words to those who think it is OK to trample on our democracy and use “freedom” as a pathway to lawlessness and yes—pure selfishness.
Eugene Peterson’s The Message Bible translates the Apostle James words in 5:19-20 in a bold way that we need to memorize and act on:
“My dear friends, if you know people who
have wandered off from God’s truth,
don’t write them off. Go after them. Get them back…
and you will have rescued precious lives from destruction
and prevented an epidemic of wandering away from God.”
Perhaps you never thought about making an impact on eternity, but you do when you live, act and act-upon righteousness and truth. God has given us everything we need to help one another when we wander from right and wrong. Is it easy—not in our politically polarized society. But then again, this has happened throughout the universe and we only have to look back to the Bible to realize that what is happening now is “nothing new under the sun.” However, this doesn’t allow us to abdicate what God has asked us to do!
We all have people in our lives, whether people of faith or not, who need someone to help point the way God would want them to live. Wouldn’t it be much easier to hibernate from those folks and say “someone else can do it?” Sadly, many do that out of fear and retaliation. But take a look at our long struggle in democracy—look at those who stepped out and called out the sinner and made a difference. In fact, think of the people who have stepped into your lives—they helped you and changed your path—talk about monuments—that was God orchestrating a monumental shift for your life.
This world needs you—really needs you. God has never called you to do something God has not equipped you to do. So, step up, ask God today to strengthen you so you can help another person and impact their lives with the truth of God. After all, no 555-foot monument could replace your efforts to reach out and help another—AMEN!