It’s the 4th of July weekend, that extended celebration of Independence Day and our nation’s 243rd birthday. Usually that means barbecue and fireworks and time at the lake or beach or pool. And there’s usually a wave of patriotism, with flags flying and reminders that we live in the “land of the free, and the home of the brave.”
I will admit, without apology, that I am a very patriotic American. I had instilled in me from an early age a love for these United States of America, and nothing I have experienced has diminished my love for country, however imperfect it may be.
I believe that citizenship in this great nation is both a right and a privilege, and that we all need to carry our weight as citizens to make this country all that it can be. In this day and age in particular, I think that means less finger-pointing at others, less partisan politicking and political posturing, less angry rhetoric, and more responsibility for doing right, being right, and making our country right. That includes voting, serving, helping, loving others as ourselves.
Now, let me say, as a Christ-follower and a pastor, I am first and foremost a citizen of Christ’s Kingdom, and there is never to be a doubt where my true allegiance lies. Quite honestly, I am surprised at how many fellow Christians seem to get those things mixed up. The Bible says that we are “aliens and strangers,” pilgrims here who are just passing through. Our citizenship is in heaven, not on earth, and we must never confuse the two or wed God and country so closely that we get confused who we are serving.
And so, we don’t spend a lot of time baptizing our flag and celebrating America in our worship services at Shelby Crossings, though that doesn’t mean we don’t love our country. I can’t imagine the apostle Paul advocating “God ‘n country” in first-century Rome, even as he called on Christians to pray for their leaders. But that doesn’t mean we don’t recognize our nation’s godly heritage, and seek to make our nation all that He would want it to be.
The Puritan John Winthrop suggested almost 400 years ago in the early days of the American colonies that God had sovereignly led to her founding as a “city on a hill.” Whether that suggests an “American exceptionalism” or not, I cannot say. But over the last four centuries God has surely “shed His grace” on our nation, has blessed America, and has used her to be a blessing to the world.
It was the French diplomat and historian Alexis de Toqueville who wrote in the mid-19th century what was long considered a moral imperative for our country, but has since become a controversial statement (though I still believe it to be true). He said: “America is great, because America is good. And if America ever ceases to be good, she will cease to be great.”
America has never been perfect, not in its founding, nor “back in the good ol’ days” of any generation. But this nation was founded with a moral vision grounded in God’s will, revealed through the Scriptures. And we must never shrink away from seeking to be a people who “do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with our God.” (Micah 6:8)
Ultimately, we as a nation are accountable to God. Hear the words of one of our founding fathers, Thomas Jefferson, which are inscribed on the walls of the Jefferson Memorial in Washington, D.C.: “God who gave us life gave us liberty. Can the liberties of a nation be secure when we have removed a conviction that these liberties are the gift of God? Indeed I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just, that His justice cannot sleep forever.”
And so, on this Independence Day weekend, let us pray for America, that God would humble us, unite us, draw us to Himself, and bring revival in our land. God bless America….please.
I look forward to seeing you on Sunday.