When the flag passes by in at our hometown parade on the 4th, I’ll stand and salute! I’ll feel stirring of pride as old soldiers pass by. I love my country, the freedoms, the opportunities, the security that is found here. I love her enough to weep for her sins, to pray for her leaders, to have a broken heart for what is happening to her.
My patriotism does not blind me to some terrible wrongs of our past including the policies of extermination that nearly destroyed the Native American population, the horrific practice of slavery and racism, and wars waged only to protect power, privilege, and economic advantage. I pray God’s forgiveness for those injustices and for ways to heal the wounds they caused.
Nor does my acknowledging of sins blind me to the blessings I enjoy in this great republic, the oldest and longest surviving democracy in history. One of the things I truly love about my country is that I can raise my voice in dissent and that I can enlist others to vote with me for change.
Some of my brothers and sisters in the Church seem to think that God Himself is a citizen of the United States. He is not. Jesus is the Savior of the world; not just the West or the U.S of A. That is one reason that our local church is very cautious about weaving “God and Country” into our worship. We fly the flag in our worship space, along with about 2 dozen flags of other nations, hopefully a not so subtle reminder that the God we worship is not just our God, nor does He favor us above any other nation.
I can hear the groans and cries of some who are reading. “But, Jerry, we are a ‘Christian’ nation.” That is a phrase that needs to be explored more deeply. If by it, you mean that the United States was originally settled by people who were almost all Christian by culture, that they drew inspiration for the way they organized the country’s laws from the Scripture, I believe you are right. If you mean that Christianity should enjoy a favored status in this secular nation, you are mistaken. When we try to weave government policies and church creeds together in law, we tread a dangerous path where the power of the law can be used to compel those beliefs that ought to be matters of individual conviction and faith.
It is not at all easy to find the right place to draw the line that separates the power of the state from our convictions. Christians and those without any religious conviction are universally in agreement that murder is a moral evil and thus feel no reservation about letting our government both forbid the practice and punish murderers. I believe that science reveals the unbroken thread of life from the moment of conception, thus I believe that aborting an unborn child is tantamount to murder. Others do not share that understanding. What is the proper role of the law in such matters? The United States continues to debate this, as we should, albeit sadly, too often without civility or thoughtfulness.
Can you see the problems inherent with Church/State entanglement?
Would you like the government to be empowered to compel you to worship God in a certain way as it did in England 5 centuries ago?
Would you want the national government to be collecting taxes for the support of a state church in the way that is done in some European countries yet today?
I must add this. Even as we celebrate our nation and pray for her, we must not confuse the United States with ancient Israel. When we indiscriminately take Old Testament blessings about Israel and make them apply to all things American, we fail to understand that ancient nation was a theocracy, a people with a common faith in the LORD God, different from this country.
Yes, I believe that God is ultimately the authority from which all human government legitimacy flows. No matter the nation, no matter the religion of the majority, the people prosper when reverence for One greater goes deep; when integrity, selflessness, humility, and respect for human dignity are the basic principles that shape national policies.
Oh, America, I love you, and I pray for you.
In this I am on solid ground as a Christian. The word from the Word today says “I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone— for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.” (1 Timothy 2:1-4, NIV)
As we celebrate America’s birthday, let’s pray for those who hold public office- be it the mayor of our town or the President! We pray for the Spirit to make them wise and just, that they would govern without partiality or self-interest. Let’s commit to good citizenship, for the sake of Christ! When we ‘render to Caesar the things that are his and to God the things that belong to Him’ we honor our Lord.
Happy Independence Day!
My sincere prayer today is:
God bless America that she would use her might for the right,
to truly create liberty and justice for ALL!