Remembering Reagan

The death of President Reagan has been a time of reflection on many fronts. The world has changed tremendously in the quarter century since Reagan assumed office in 1980. The Communist ideology which covered half the world is now little more than a relic of history. The United States itself has greatly changed economically, politically, militarily and culturally. In all of this transition the influence of Ronald Reagan can be seen.
Our understanding of President Reagan as a person has also changed dramatically over the years. In 1980 the national perception of Reagan was that of a very likeable man with very limited capabilities. Ignoring his many achievements as Governor of California, union president, and political commentator, the popular impression was of Reagan the actor, the leading man in “Bedtime for Bonzo”.
As the years have passed, a much more nuanced understanding of the President has overtaken the glib caricature. Even Ronald Reagan’s harshest critics have come to concede the impressive accomplishments of his administration. On the personal side, the grace and dignity with which Reagan announced the diagnosis of his Alzheimer’s disease displayed a depth of character and a sensitivity of feeling far beyond what many expected. Ronald Reagan has come to be appreciated not only as an effective politician, but as a good man.
No Excuses
Reflecting on President Reagan’s life and accomplishments serves as an incentive for many of us who admire him to look into our own lives and to aspire to be better people. One aspect of Reagan’s legacy was his determination to do things that needed to be done. He did not let the enormity of the tasks dissuade him from action. He engaged challenges and accomplished great things.
In discussing Reagan’s accomplishments, a friend of mine reminded me that President Reagan was 69 years old before he assumed office. Even though Reagan joked about his age, his physical vigor and attractive presence had made me forget that he was not just an old President, he was the oldest to ever serve. My friend contrasted Reagan’s commitment to action with members of the church who, because of age or other reasons, choose to retire from the Lord’s service.
In 1980 Reagan was already a man of personal wealth and public accomplishment. Certainly no one could have blamed him for enjoying a comfortable retirement. But Ronald Reagan chose to serve because he understood the importance of the work that needed doing.
Doing What Really Matters
How important is our work for the Lord? A moment of reflection tells us that God’s work is more important than any political, military, or economic accomplishment. Public policy attempts to enhance the human condition in this life, while God’s work is building for eternity.
Too often, however, members of the church find excuses not to do the work set before us. We tell ourselves we would do the work if only we were younger (or older, or married, or single, or employed, or retired.) We need to remember the warning: “So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin” (James 4:17 ESV).

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