Leaders Who Knew It Wasn’t About Them
Free to Teach - February 2024

In celebration of Washington’s and Lincoln’s birthdays this month, which have been awkwardly combined into “President’s Day,” I would like to start by honoring each of them.

At the risk of sounding cliché, it is difficult to understate the gratitude we owe to George Washington. His force of character held the colonial army together during the darkest days of the Revolution. He drove a stake through the heart of monarchy in America when he refused to be made king after the war—when many saw his coronation as the answer to the emerging chaos in the states. Many would argue that Washington’s greatest single act was freeing his slaves in his will, while understandably indicting him for waiting so long. 

However, I would like to focus on a lesser-known contribution. When law and order were breaking down in the states following the successful Revolution, and Congress under the Articles of Confederation was too weak to respond, Washington noted:

We have errors to correct. We have probably had too good an opinion of human nature in forming our confederation…I do not conceive we can exist long as a nation, without having lodged somewhere a power which will pervade the whole Union… 

With an understanding of Jeremiah 17:9, Washington responded to James Madison’s call to create a stronger federal government, lending his formidable credibility to the cause by presiding over the 1787 Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia. The result of their deliberations continues to be the longest-surviving democratic republic in world history, which would go on to eventually fight a war to end slavery and extend equal protection of the law for all of its citizens. 

Why has our system lasted so long? Because, as Washington observed, it is a system designed to check flawed human nature. Separation of powers. Checks and balances. A divided legislative branch. Senate confirmation of presidential appointments. Veto and impeachment procedures. These were all written into the Constitution to enshrine the rule of law, rather than the rule of man—to protect us from corrupt (read: “human”) leaders. Washington’s stepping into retirement after two terms further cemented the concept of the rule of law in the American soul. 

Today, evidence abounds that the rule of law is under threat. Many of our current or prospective political leaders seem willing to ignore or break laws at their preference, and by doing so exalt the rule of man over the rule of law. When we support political leaders who care little for the rule of just law, I believe Washington would hold that we put our democracy in peril. 

Speaking of Abraham Lincoln (who I believe was our most eloquent president), I can’t help but tear up at his words from his Second Inaugural Address framing the Civil War:

Fondly do we hope—fervently do we pray—that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away. Yet, if God wills that it continue until all the wealth piled by the bondsman’s two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said three thousand years ago so still it must be said, “the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.”

Notice Lincoln’s expression of a humble confidence in God’s sovereignty and purposes. Like Washington, he knew that the story was not about him—he was simply playing a role in God’s story. Lincoln understood that even though the North didn’t own slaves, much of Northern prosperity was built upon the slave economy. He was considering that God, in His justice, was holding the entire nation accountable for the sin of slavery. Some readers may hear in this an echo of Thomas Jefferson, also speaking of slavery, who said, “Indeed I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just: that his justice cannot sleep forever.”

Lincoln’s observation begs a critical question: Is God’s justice temporarily sleeping on the millions of abortions, the hundreds of thousands of trafficked children, and the thousands of minors below the age of consent who are drugged and mutilated in the name of so-called “gender identity” in America? How long will He bless such a nation?

My prayer is that we would see more political leaders today with Lincoln’s understanding that “God governs in the affairs of men”—a perspective that is an invitation to humility and a restraint against narcissism. 

Will we see more leaders emerge with respect for the rule of law like Washington and humility in response to God’s sovereignty of Lincoln? I’m not terribly optimistic. While not always true, I tend to subscribe to the maxim that “the government we elect is the government we deserve.” 

The situation we face in our nation serves as a powerful reminder that we put our hope in Jesus and His kingdom, not in any earthly system—even one that has blessed the world so abundantly over nearly 250 years. Our best hope for our nation is to pray and work for the extension of His kingdom.

As you enjoy your President’s Day holiday, here are a few updates to pray over:

  • The Kentucky legislature is considering a bill requiring a two-minute moment of silence at the beginning of each school day. Despite critics’ claims that the bill is a backdoor entry for prayer in schools, the bill directs teachers to have students get direction from their parents about how to use the moment of silence.
  • Pray for the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals, as they weigh in on this case about whether an Ohio school district can bar students from “misgendering” each other. Parents Defending Education is arguing, and I agree, that this is a violation of students’ free speech rights.
  • Greek Orthodox believer Jennifer Vitsaxaki is suing a New York school district for socially transitioning her daughter without parental consent. This appears to be an example, which is becoming far too common, of school officials inappropriately rushing to diagnose adolescents with gender dysphoria who are manifesting anxiety, depression, autism, trauma, etc. Vitsaxaki’s daughter is now in a private school, reconciled with her biological sex, and her grades and mental health have improved.
  • A case before the 1st Circuit will decide if a school can ban a Massachusetts middle school student from wearing a shirt that says, “There are only two genders.”

Finally, let me tell you a story about a recent development in California regarding an After School Satan Club

One of our key Christian Educators leaders recently let us know that an After School Satan Club was going to start meeting at an elementary school in her district last Monday. The two most influential papers in the region had even given it fairly favorable coverage. I have said many times before that we need to be very wise in how we respond to these clubs, as their goal is not so much to actually have a club but to create controversy that leads school districts to shut down all after-school clubs. They are specifically targeting Good News Clubs. However, their tactics seem to be working against them considering the number of students attending the Good News Club at that same elementary school has almost tripled since the After School Satan Club announcement!

Our member and her colleagues, as well as the local Good News Club leaders, have been praying over the school. On the day of the club launch, we received this update from the Good News Club regional director:

Thank you so much for praying! Things could not have gone any better! We truly felt your prayers and God’s presence was evident! There were no protestors, no news media, no reporters, and no chaos at all. It was calm and peaceful with the sweet presence of Jesus. Their club ended up having 5 adults and 1 child, who we believe to be the child of one of the leaders. Thank you, Jesus! We worship You and give You all the praise!

She then asked us to pray for all those involved, especially for the heart of that one child. I can’t think of a better way to spend President’s Day.

David Schmus is the Executive Director of Christian Educators.

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Free to Teach is written to inform, encourage, and inspire Christian educators serving in our public schools. It should not be construed as legal advice provided by an attorney.

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