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Monday, September 20, 2010


He was a leading attorney of his state. Yet, he was young and desired to be a leader among attorneys in the nation.

George Harding was just such a lawyer. His firm was hired to provide legal counsel in one of the country’s most famous patent cases.

Harding decided to engage the services of a lawyer, who lived near to the client and, who “understood the judge and had his confidence.” He found one—the good, young, up-and-coming lawyer. Harding paid him a retainer and arranged a substantial fee for when the work was completed.

The young lawyer was ecstatic. This was an opportunity for him to test himself. He had great ambitions and felt this was a long-awaited opportunity.

The lead attorney lived in a city some distance from the ambitious lawyer, and he failed to provide much communication during the months of preparation. Arriving at the location of the trial in Cincinnati Ohio, the young, hopeful lawyer spotted Harding, accompanied by an additional attorney.

Seeing the two of them together came as a surprise. Nevertheless, the young attorney suggested they walk together to the courthouse. Somewhat irritated, the superfluous attorney drew Harding aside and asked in a loud whisper “why did you bring that ______ long armed ape here… he does not know anything and can do you no good.”

With that, the two lawyers abandoned the young attorney and proceeded on their way into the courthouse. The additional attorney became Harding’s second-in-command.

The young attorney took the hint and removed himself from the case. Even though he had prepared a detailed manuscript for Harding, Harding, as lead attorney, never gave the work so much as a glance.

Neither Harding nor his second-in-command ever asked the young lawyer to join them for meal or any other endeavor. When the presiding judge hosted a meal for lawyers on both sides of the case, the young attorney was completely ignored and never received an invitation.

As one might imagine, this experience was devastating for the young attorney. He had been ignored and disrespected. The young attorney and the second-in-command would not see each other for another six years–when the young attorney would offer the second-in-command “the most powerful civilian post within his gift.” That office was Secretary of War.

Doris Kearns Goodwin tells the story of Abraham Lincoln and Edwin Stanton in her book TEAM OF RIVALS. In offering the government position to Edwin Stanton, Abraham Lincoln showed magnanimity uncommon for most human beings. Ultimately, this act and many others would be appreciated by Stanton. Goodwin writes that he would “come to respect and love [Lincoln] more than any other person outside his immediate family.”

I have personally seen the spot, where Stanton stood over Lincoln’s assassinated body, when he issued the proclamation, “Now he belongs to the ages.”

Many of us know that Abraham Lincoln offers example after example of living Jesus’ command, “love your enemies…” how transformative would it be for each one of us to truly implement this command of Jesus within our churches?

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