Don’t be afraid,’ David said to him, ‘for I will surely show you kindness for the sake of your father Jonathan’ » (2 Samuel 9:7).
Great rejoicing spread through the Union camp. The Northern forces had captured two sons of General Robert E. Lee, commander of the Southern army.
«Hang ‘em,» shouted Mr. Stanton, the secretary of war.
«The Southern army has several of our officers,» replied his assistant. «They’re planning to hang them, so it’s only right that we do the same.»
While the North rejoiced, the South cried out in anguish, especially the families of General Lee. When Confederate president Jefferson Davis heard the news, he sent an immediate message to President Lincoln, begging mercy for his general’s sons.
Lincoln received the message at midnight. «What’s the meaning of this?» the president asked a sleepy Stanton.
«Those boys deserve to die,» the official responded. «Besides, the South’s about to hang two of ours.»
Lincoln shook his head. «I can’t stop the enemy from killing our men. But for us to hang their men in this manner would stamp ‘murder’ on my heart. It can’t be done!» After scribbling some words on a scrap of paper, the president ordered, «Send this message to the officer in charge of the fort where the boys are held.» The message read: «Immediately release both of the sons of Robert E. Lee and send them back to their father.»
Like David of old, Abraham Lincoln was showing mercy for the sake of the boys’ father, General Lee. Why not carry on that beautiful tradition today by showing mercy for God’s sake?