Of the congressmen, dignitaries, and military officers present that day, not one could refrain from weeping openly. One of the greatest men in world history stood before them in the Annapolis, Maryland Capitol building, and commenced to do what no General had ever before done. The monarchs in Europe held their breath from afar, as the world waited and watched for the next step by the man whose army, against all odds, had just vanquished England’s mighty military machine.
General George Washington could easily have assumed a throne, and none would have been able to stop him. Many in fact believed he would become a King or Dictator, for such had been the path of great generals before him. There was no historical precedent for a man wielding so much political power and influence to willingly step aside.
Yet this is exactly what Washington had come to Annapolis to do: to place the military back under civilian rule. His hands trembled while holding his notes, his voice catching, as he thanked his fellow officers and announced his intent to return to private life, abdicating all privilege, rank, and authority that may have accumulated during his eight years as Commander in Chief of the Continental Army. After eight long years away from his family, he was determined to go home.
Witness testimony was uniform: the atmosphere was heavy with the weight of such profound humility. The man of steel during eight years of battle was overcome by emotion, his voice sinking to almost inaudible as he struggled to fight back tears. Everyone present knew they were witnessing an earthly rarity, and the power of it broke even the toughest among them.
Have we missed something in our 21st century Christian expression? Have we forgotten where true power lies, attained only by the pattern laid down centuries ago, and to which we are admonished in Philippians 2 to be of “that same mind, which though having the full privilege of Divinity, did not consider that something to be grasped onto tightly, but He, Jesus, emptied Himself of all rank and privilege, and took on something so much less, the image and likeness of common man…even lowering Himself to the status of servant…and even to that of a Cross.”
Today in Annapolis, God’s heart for His Church was emotionally difficult to ponder. He who abdicated, watches from above as His precious children jockey for title, ecclesiastical privilege, salaried security, authority over others, and even self enrichment through His sacred anointing.
We rail against our national government, but we have forgotten that it is our own religious structures and priorities that have grieved the Spirit, not simply the policies of secular men. We are part of an eternal Kingdom where the principle modeled by Washington, abdication for the elevation of others, is both the norm and command of Christ. But consumed by our own personal legacies, we justify clenching tightly, we zealously guard what we’ve attained, and we dread the day when one more anointed diminishes some of our shine. And in so doing we push away the very revival we crave.
Our heart cry in Maryland today is for a revival of humility, brotherhood, and servanthood to sweep across this new generation of believers. May God deliver us from a preoccupation with our mantles and titles, and restore us again to the freedom of a childlike faith. “If My people, which are called by My name, will humble themselves and pray, seek My face, and turn from their sinful ways, then I will hear from heaven, I will forgive their sin, and I will heal their land!”
II Chronicles 7:14