Leading up to Independence Day – July 4, 2010 – which will be the 234th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence – I’ll be sharing with you some thoughts on the leadership of three of the Founding Fathers of the United States of America.
A word of caution: it has been vogue in the last couple of years to point out the anti-Christian nature of the Founding Fathers. Many contend that the Founding Fathers were, at best, Deists, and most certainly not Christians. The only proof given for these statements – from what I could find in my research – has been opinions and writings from the early 20th Century onward.
I’ll be using the words of these Founding Fathers themselves to show how their faith in Jesus Christ shaped their lives and leadership qualities.
He was the commander-in-chief of the Continental Army that defeated British Forces in the War of Independence – giving rise to the United States of America. He was then elected the first President of the United States and served two terms. He is popularly known as the “father of our country.”
George Washington was a leader. By almost all accounts, he was a great leader. What was the basis of his leadership? What can we learn from his leadership? At least three things.
1. Jesus Christ is the Corner-Stone of Life
George Washington was a Christian. I know that many, many people will deny this. They say he was a deist, not a Christian. But I’m confident in saying that George Washington was a Christian because he was baptized in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. But also because of what he said about Jesus Christ.
“You do well to wish to learn our arts and ways of life, and above all, the religion of Jesus Christ. These will make you a greater and happier people than you are.” [The Writings of Washington, John C. Fitzpatrick, editor (Washington: Government Printing Office, 1932), Vol. XV, p. 55, from his speech to the Delaware Indian Chiefs on May 12, 1779.]
As you explore the life of this Founding Father of the American nation, it will become clearly evident that he lived his life based on his faith in Jesus Christ. Not just Christian morals but based on the religion of Jesus Christ. It was George Washington’s belief that living with faith in Jesus Christ would make a person happy and great.
No doubt there have been great people who did not believe in Jesus Christ. No doubt there are happy people who do not believe in Jesus Christ. But it was George Washington’s belief that you could become greater and happier still if you have faith in Jesus Christ.
A good leader will lead out of his beliefs. Washington led his men – and then his country – out of his belief in Jesus Christ.
2. Character Counts
Washington was a soldier, a general, a president, and a farmer. But more than that – George Washington was all these things as a man of character. I’ve yet to see anyone question the character of George Washington (except the possibility of his owning slaves as a character flaw). George Washington drew on a main source for his character – Christianity.
“While we are zealously performing the duties of good citizens and soldiers, we certainly ought not to be inattentive to the higher duties of religion. To the distinguished character of Patriot, it should be our highest glory to add the more distinguished character of Christian.” [The Writings of Washington, John C. Fitzpatrick, editor (Washington: Government Printing Office, 1932), Vol. XI, pp. 342-343, General Orders of May 2, 1778.]
Christian faith will not make a person a perfect leader. Washington readily admitted that he was not perfect, that he was a mere mortal prone to mistakes. But I believe that Christian faith will shape character and leaders in the most positive way.
3. Our Faith is for All Times
And while Christian faith is a cornerstone of human character, it is not something that is simply a means to an end. It is something that stays with us at all times – in good times and in bad times, in prosperity and adversity.
Washington said, “The blessing and protection of Heaven are at all times necessary but especially so in times of public distress and danger. The General hopes and trusts that every officer and man will endeavor to live and act as becomes a Christian soldier, defending the dearest rights and liberties of his country.” [The Writings of George Washington, John C. Fitzpatrick, editor (Washington: Government Printing Office, 1932), Vol. 5, p. 245, July 9, 1776 Order.]
It is clear to me that while Washington was in the field leading the troops of the Continental Army, he was drawing upon his Christian faith to get him through all the defeats (and those were many) and the hard winters, lack of provisions, and the diseases that plagued the army. He never despaired of the Cause for which he was fighting – the rights and liberties of his country. This confidence and courage came from his faith in Jesus Christ that he carried with him at all times.
On this Father’s Day, as we approach the anniversary of the Independence of the United States, we can draw strength – and pass to the next generation – these three things from George Washington: Jesus Christ is the Corner-Stone of Life, Character Counts, and Our Faith is for All Times.
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