An Exasperated Grant – By Jim Taylor

This article by Jim Taylor was delivered as a communion meditation on November 1, 2015. 

When Ulysses S. Grant was called from his command in the west and placed in overall command of the Army of the Potomac, he inherited a group of junior commanders who had long experience in fighting against the Army of Northern Virginia and its commander, Robert E. Lee.  Despite significantly greater numbers, and vastly superior supply, they had suffered humiliating defeats at Lee’s hands at places such as Fredericksburg and Chancellorsville.  Moreover, while they had turned Lee back at Gettysburg, Lee had escaped back into Confederate territory with his army battered, but still intact.

General Lee had a myth or an aura about him that infected the hearts and minds of these junior commanders.  This became evident when they spoke to their new commander, General Grant, about what they thought General Lee might do.  Eventually, General Grant became exasperated and blurted out a retort that has become famous:

“Oh, I am heartily tired of hearing about what Lee is going to do.  Some of you always seem to think he is suddenly going to turn a double somersault, and land in our rear and on both of our flanks at the same time.  Go back to your command, and try to think what are we going to do ourselves, instead of what Lee is going to do.”

Sometimes I fear that Christians today are too much like the junior commanders in the Army of the Potomac.  We bellyache about how secular forces in our society are on the march and aggressively seeking to marginalize Christians and Christianity.  We grouse about people saying “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas.”  We fixate on stories about legal fights to remove displays of the Ten Commandments from courthouses. We get worked up over gay marriage issues.

Let’s stop worrying so much about what the secularists in our society are going to do and start planning what we are going to do; what we should be doing.

Let’s stop worrying so much about what the secularists in our society are going to do and start planning what we are going to do; what we should be doing.

We have the good news.  God loves us so much that He sent His son into this world to be a sacrifice for us.  Christ died on a Roman cross to pay the debt for our sins.  Because of that sacrifice, we have forgiveness.  We have hope.  We have the promise of eternal life.  These are the words that all men need to hear.  That should be our focus.

So stop fixating on what secularists are going to do, and let’s start making them nervous about what we are going to do.  Let’s get out there and share the gospel.  Moreover, we need to reinforce the power of our words with the power of our example.  We must live lives beyond reproach.  We must show that being a child of God makes a difference in our lives, filling us with love and joy and hope.  And we must show love, respect and compassion to all — even those who oppose us.

In the end, we will not change the world by clever legal maneuvering or shrill arguments.  Rather, we will only change the world by the power of the gospel.