Thursday, September 04, 2014

Joanne Freeman on 'Alexander Hamilton and the Idea of Honor'

"A good name is more desirable than great riches; to be esteemed is better than silver or gold." (Proverbs 22:1)

The Bible acknowledges that a good reputation is a good thing, although when God came into the world in the Person of Jesus of Nazareth, He was willing to take on a bad reputation, enduring the form of execution reserved for Rome's worst criminals, in His mission of saving all who repent and believe in Him from eternal separation from God.

For this, Philippians 2:9-11, tells us, Jesus achieved supreme honor, the highest reputation one can have:
...God exalted him to the highest place
    and gave him the name that is above every name,
10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
    in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
11 and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord,
    to the glory of God the Father.
Those of us who are only human, and not like Jesus, both human and divine, may attain respect and honor from others, but it won't be any good to us when we face God in eternity.

Then, the only question will be, "Have we emulated Christ and humbled ourselves by trusting in Him and what He achieved for us on the cross and from the empty tomb?"

To look for honor anywhere else but in humble submission to Christ is pointless. "
For whoever wants to save their life will lose it," Jesus says, "but whoever loses their life for me will find it." (Matthew 16:25)

All of which helps explain why I listened to Yale historian Joanne Freeman's lecture on Alexander Hamilton's idea of honor so intently. (That and the fact that Freeman is a terrific historian and lecturer.)

Other than Washington, Hamilton is my favorite figure from the American Revolution. But his idea of "honor," shared by many of his contemporaries, is self-driven, futile, and ends in death...physical as well as eternal.

In the end, we can't earn honor. All of us are ordinary sinful human beings. Honor must be conferred on us. It's only conferred on those who did what Hamilton refused to do on the fateful day when Aaron Burr killed him in a duel, surrender.

But our call isn't to surrender to just anyone or's to Christ alone.

Alexander Hamilton was a good man, in many ways a great man. But his guiding principle in life led him to a tragic, early, and ultimately, stupid death. Hamilton, always the young man in a hurry. While his achievements had already been enormous, his death at age 47 denied the country he loved his services far too early. It all could have been avoided if he had only looked for honor in the right place.

[Here's a sampling of Alexander Hamilton blogging I've done here.]

No comments: