There is a story in the Bible about a handicapped man who sat by a pool of water.
It was in Jerusalem and for almost 40 years he had been crippled, broken and weak in body, unable to do what others did.
And he sat beside that pool of water hoping for a miracle.
The story is that periodically an angel would come and stir the water up, splash it or something. And the first person to step into the fountain after it had been troubled would be healed of his infirmities.
And so the sick and handicapped gathered there, waiting for the stirring of the pool and the chance to bathe in its healing waters.
But this guy had a problem.
He was too slow.
And that’s what he told Jesus.
One day, when the Savior was in town for a feast, he stood over the man and asked him if he wanted to be healed.
The man answered that he did, but he had no one to carry him to the waters. By the time he could crawl into the pool himself, others had already gotten there – the healing had been claimed.
So Jesus told him to get up.
He told him to get up, pick up his bedding, and walk.
And he was instantly healed, and able to do as he had been instructed. And on his way he went, carrying his bedding, presumably ecstatic at this miraculous gift of health.
Imagine it. Thirty-eight years of crippling handicap, and in an instant he was made whole. What a glorious thing to see.
And what an odd thing to ignore.
Because as he walked away with his bedding, he was accosted by others. Antagonistically, accusingly. It was the Sabbath, the holy day of rest, and it was against the Jewish law to do work. And that included carrying things around.
There was a rule, and this guy was breaking it, and everybody wanted to tell him about it.
They were seriously angry.
Somebody was going to get condemned over this.
It’s amazing, if you think about it. These people – who well knew this man’s history – saw the fruit of a miracle. A handicapped man walking about, completely whole. And yet they couldn’t see the miracle because they were incensed by the violation.
They couldn’t see the good because they were fixated on the bad. When they should have been rejoicing, they were busy judging.
Instead of asking how he came to be healed, or expressing amazement or shock, or sharing his joy, they saw a chance, an excuse, to criticize – and they took it.
They were so busy judging and condemning, they missed the grace of God.
I think a lot of us are that way.
We claim such a “right” to judge other people that we presume our entitlement is preeminent. If you have done something wrong, by our standards, then that wrong trumps everything else. It is the only consideration. It is all that matters.
What an impossible and unjust standard that is.
How poorly we ourselves would fare under such a standard.
How much good we are blinded to by our lust for seeing bad.
Too often this attitude of disqualification colors our perception of others. We judge people not by the good they do, but by the bad. Not by their strengths, but by their weaknesses. Their beauty is lost in our fixation on their warts.
The problem with that is, we all have warts.
None of us is perfect.
And while we all should constantly work to overcome our weaknesses and imperfections, it is usually wrong in the meantime to throw us away for being flawed.
In our relations with others, we ought to encourage the good more often than we condemn the bad. That is not an argument for permissiveness, it is merely a recognition of the reality of the human heart. You cannot chastise a man to glory, and you will get much further down the road of human progress by praising than by scolding.
Clearly, there are times to judge and condemn. Your desire to be positive must not be twisted into dishonesty. Bad things do need to be denounced, and people do occasionally need to have the riot act read to them.
But reproof must always be done in a spirit of love, with an eye toward change and improvement, not condemnation and rejection.
Because people are miracles, and they have the potential to be even more. And it would be a shame if our judgmentalism blinded us to that fact.
It would be a shame if our self-righteous desire to condemn our neighbor never allowed us to see him as God sees him – as a being as worthy and relevant and loved as we are.
If we can overcome our impulse to condemn the failings of others, who knows what miracles we will finally be able to see.
The Democrats are right, there are two Americas.
The America that works, and the America that doesn’t. The America that contributes, and the America that doesn’t.
It’s not the haves and the have nots, it’s the dos and the don’ts. Some people do their duty as Americans, to obey the law and support themselves and contribute to society, and others don’t.
That’s the divide in America.
It’s not about income inequality, it’s about civic irresponsibility. It’s about a political party that preaches hatred, greed and victimization in order to win elective office. It’s about a political party that loves power more than it loves its country.
That’s not invective, that’s truth.
And it’s about time someone said it.
The politics of envy was on proud display last week as the president said he would pledge the rest of his term to fighting “income inequality.” He notes that some people make more than other people, that some people have higher incomes than others, and he says that’s not just.
It was the rationale of thievery.
The other guy has it, you want it, Obama will take it for you.
It is the electoral philosophy that gave us Detroit. It is the electoral philosophy that is destroying America.
And it conceals a fundamental deviation from American values and common sense. It ends up not being a benefit to the people who support it, but a betrayal. The Democrats have not empowered their followers, they have enslaved them – in a culture of dependence and entitlement, of victimhood and anger instead of ability and hope.
The president’s premise – that you reduce income inequality by debasing the successful – seeks to ignore and cheat the law of choices and consequences. It seeks to deny the successful the consequences of their choices and spare the unsuccessful the consequences of their choices.
Because, by and large, the variability in society is a result of different choices leading to different consequences. Those who choose wisely and responsibility have a far greater likelihood of success, while those who choose foolishly and irresponsibly have a far greater likelihood of failure.
And success and failure can manifest themselves in personal and family income.
You choose to drop out of high school or to skip college and you are apt to have a different outcome than someone who gets a diploma and pushes on with purposeful education. You have your children out of wedlock and life is apt to take one course, you have them in wedlock and life is apt to take another course.
Most often in life our destination is determined by the course we take.
My doctor, for example, makes far more than I do. There is significant income inequality between us. Our lives have had an inequality of outcome. But, our lives also have had an inequality of effort. Whereas my doctor went to college and then gave the flower of his young adulthood to medical school and residency, I got a job in a restaurant. He made a choice, I made a choice. And our choices led us to different outcomes.
His outcome pays a lot better than mine.
Does that mean he cheated and Barack Obama needs to take away his wealth?
No, it means we are both free men.
And in a free society, free choices will lead to different outcomes.
It is not inequality Barack Obama will take away, it is freedom.
The freedom to succeed, and the freedom to fail. And there is no true option for success if there is no true option for failure.
The pursuit of happiness means a whole lot less when you face the punitive hand of government if your pursuit brings you more happiness than the other guy.
Even if the other guy sat on his arse and did nothing.
Even if the other guy made a lifetime’s worth of asinine and shortsighted decisions.
Barack Obama and the Democrats preach equality of outcome as a right, while completely ignoring inequality of effort. The simple Law of the Harvest – as ye sow, so shall ye reap – is sometimes applied as, “The harder you work, the more you get.”
The progressive movement would turn that upside down.
Those who achieve are to be punished as enemies of society and those who fail are to be rewarded as wards of society. Entitlement has replaced effort as the key to upward mobility in American society.
Or at least it has if Barack Obama gets his way.
He seeks a lowest common denominator society in which the government besieges the successful and productive and fosters equality through mediocrity.
He and his party speak of two Americas.
And their grip on power is based on using the votes of one to sap the productivity of the other.
America is not divided by the differences in our outcomes, it is divided by the differences in our efforts. And by the false philosophy that says one man’s success comes about unavoidably as the result of another man’s victimization.
What the president offered was not a solution, but a separatism. He fomented division and strife, he pitted one set of Americans against another.
For his own political benefit.
That’s what progressives offer. Marxist class warfare wrapped up with a bow.
Two Americas, coming closer each day to proving the truth to Lincoln’s maxim that a house divided against itself cannot stand.
My dearest Austin,
As you prepare to go to war, I would like, as your father-in-law, to give you some advice. I do so out of my love for you, but with no confidence that I can give you any insights into what you will face and feel over the coming months.
You are going where I have never gone.
I have known long separation from home and family, but my service was religious and in peace. I faced no mortal enemy, and I knew nothing of danger. You, on the other hand, will leave your country and your bride behind, and spend most of the next year in very difficult conditions amongst a people who want to kill you.
You will do this in a situation of uncertainty, for a nation only blindly finding its way forward, and under rules and commanders who sometimes may make no sense at all. As you wrestle with the what of your deployment, you may also question the why.
All of this, from the boredom to the danger, will play out in the context of an alien world thousands of miles from your home and culture, and in the shadow of the hard separation from your wife and her love.
You are right to be nervous and apprehensive. You are even justified to be afraid.
You are a teen-ager, and our country has asked you to be a man, a giant among men, an infantryman and a paratrooper, a defender of liberty on distant shores.
I do not know what you will face, but I do know some principles of life, and I would like to recommend them to you. I have faced hardships, and I would like to tell you how I have endured them. I believe I know what you must do to return from your combat tour better for the experience.
The first is to stay true to your faith.
Be a Christian soldier.
Say your prayers, every day. In moments of joy, sorrow, uncertainty or fear, cry out in your heart for God’s comfort and guidance. Ask him to lead you, let him be your friend and companion when you feel totally alone.
Don’t be sanctimonious, and you needn’t be perfect, but you need to remember who you are, and what you have been called to do. You are to be a light of the world, an example to your friends and a comforter to those around you.
Say your prayers, every day. And read the scriptures on a regular basis. Ask God to make himself known to you, and to send you his spirit through his word.
Do that, and you will never march alone.
Do that, and in even the darkest of moments you will have hope and help.
Be helpful to the soldiers around you. Set a good example for them, as a soldier and as a man. Take care of them and protect them, so that together you all may come home to your families when your duty is done.
When you are tired and afraid, when the burden grows heavy, know that it is heavy for them as well, and when you feel the worst, they will need you the most. In helping them with their problems, you will find comfort and relief for your own problems.
Remember that your service is noble. You are an American soldier, the representative of a free people and an inspired Constitution. You are in the United States Army and that is a big deal. You are standing on a foundation built from the honor and achievements of more than 200 years of soldiering. Live up to that heritage and don’t let it down.
Be brave, and know that bravery isn’t the absence of fear, it is the absence of inaction. A brave man acts when others can’t. He follows his training, he upholds his ethics, he lifts high the flag of freedom. He does what needs to be done. You are as capable of doing your duty as any American who has ever worn the uniform.
Remember that honor is found not in what you are asked to do, but in how you do what you are asked to do. No task is minor or insignificant, if you do it to the best of your ability.
Stay close to your wife back home. Write her and Skype her and keep her picture and her memory close to your heart. She is why you fight. She is proud of you. She is part of you. You are defending her, and your folks back at home and the children you will one day father.
Stay close to your nation. Be open to the love of country and patriotism that will become clearer and more central to your service as you look back on the duty you are about to do.
You are going to war in order to serve God, family and country. You are the defender of all three.
Keep a journal and take lots of pictures, take care of your gun and your feet, and don’t trust anybody who doesn’t have US ARMY embroidered above his heart. Be hyper vigilant and continually assess every situation you’re in. Always have a play in mind, a defensive and offensive move, in case something bad comes down. Don’t turn your back on anybody, and if you have to fight, fight like hell.
And know that God has your back.
And so do I.
I will pray for you every day, as will many who know your name, and countless other Americans who will pray for all who, like you, are in harm’s way.
I love you, I believe in you, I respect you.
I am honored to have you in my family, I am proud to be your father-in-law.
Now God bless you, and do good.
And come home when your duty is done, to live out your long life in peace.
With my love, your father-in-law,