It’s a conversation that allegedly took place between Abraham Lincoln and his life long friend, Joshua Speed. Speed, upon finding Lincoln reading the Bible, laid a hand on his shoulder and remarked, “I am glad to see you profitably engaged.”
“I am profitably engaged,” was the affirming reply.
“Well, if you have recovered from your skepticism, I am sorry to say that I have not.”
“You are wrong, Speed,” said Lincoln, looking up from the pages of his Bible. “Take all of this book upon reason that you can, and the balance on faith, and you will die a happier and better man.”
This story resonates with me for numerous reasons.
1) It’s Abraham Lincoln, an obviously smart and great man who gave God respect, believed the Bible, and relied on Christ for strength to lead America through one of it’s most trying times.
2) It’s a great statement on the cooperation of reason and faith. Christianity is not unreasonable. It does not require blind or stupid faith. It requires a reasonable faith. That would be, as Lincoln described it, a faith that travels along with reason until reason can go no further, at which point faith goes the rest of the way alone. That says that faith is not antagonistic to reason, it’s just that reason alone isn’t enough.
3) Joshua Speed, who is said to have been one of Lincoln’s best friends, did not share Lincoln’s belief. They even disagreed over the slavery issue, yet they remained close throughout Lincoln’s life and presidency. This is a good example for us, because we tend to gravitate, especially with best friends, to people who support the same belief systems we hold. We might have acquaintances that are not believers, but rarely best friends. I’d be curious as to whether Mr. Speed ever came to faith. It’s hard to imagine a long, close friendship with a man like Lincoln that wouldn’t have deeply impacted Joshua Speed about the reality of all that Lincoln believed.
At any rate, it’s a great example of the kind of friendships I believe we as Christians need to cultivate — relationships of mutual respect with those who are different from us. It’s hard to deny the powerful witness of a life of faith over the long haul.