A house divided against itself cannot stand


Old as well as new

If we could first know where we are and whither we are tending, we could better judge what to do and how to do it. We are now far into the fifth year since a policy was initiated with the avowed object and confident promise of putting an end to slavery agitation. Under the operation of that policy, that agitation has not only not ceased but has constantly augmented. In my opinion, it will not cease until a crisis shall have been reached and passed. “A house divided against itself cannot stand.” I believe this government cannot endure, permanently, half slave and half free. I do not expect the Union to be dissolved; I do not expect the house to fall; but I do expect it will cease to be divided. It will become all one thing, or all the other. Either the opponents of slavery will arrest the further spread of it and place it where the public mind shall rest in the belief that it is in the course of ultimate extinction, or its advocates will push it forward till it shall become alike lawful in all the states, old as well as new, North as well as South.

by Abraham Lincoln, (February 12, 1809 – April 15, 1865)
from the House Divided Speech (June 16, 1858)
(full text found at PBS)
image – rahuldlucca

A House Divided

“A house divided against itself” is a strong image.

The idea of a divided house can also be found in the New Testament. Lincoln’s speech is slightly different, worded “cannot stand” instead of “shall not stand.” Lincoln was talking about possibilities: “I do not expect the Union to be dissolved — I do not expect the house to fall.” He says “A house divided against itself cannot stand.”

Jesus’s words are more of a commandment: “every city or house divided against itself shall not stand.”

And Jesus knew their thoughts, and said unto them, Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation; and every city or house divided against itself shall not stand
Matthew 12:25
King James Version

Here’s another version.

Jesus knew their thoughts and said to them, “Every kingdom divided against itself will be ruined, and every city or household divided against itself will not stand.”
Matthew 12:25

The New International Version is less black and white than King James, but it’s is still more about laying down the way it is, without a sign of Lincoln’s “I do not expect the house to fall.” There is a difference. God has omnipotence and asks for faith, obedience and love… political opinion exchange, not so much.

America is, after all, a democracy. Leadership can be strong, but debate is always going to be part of the system.

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