We just celebrated the 4th of July. For some it is little more than a day off, perhaps a time to picnic or gather with family or friends to simply enjoy the fine sunny day that the 4th of July usually is. Perhaps seeing a parade or a fireworks display is included in the day’s events. Sadly, like too many “holidays,” it seems to have largely lost its original meaning to many of us.
On June 25th, the First Baptist Church of Dallas, Texas, led by Pastor Robert Jeffress, celebrated what they referred to as “Freedom Sunday,” in which they celebrated America’s heritage and gave thanks to the veterans who have given so much to protect this nation. As far as we know, they did not sacrifice any children to the flag or do anything remotely resembling that. However, as we are all aware, Christians cannot do much these days without being attacked by the left. Not to disappoint, The Patheos blog misrepresented the point of the celebration in their article, First Baptist Dallas Ignores Jesus, Worships America on “Freedom Sunday.” The writer calls attention to the fact that Pastor Jeffress’ most requested sermon is “America Is a Christian Nation,” and responds by saying:
(I wonder if anyone has told the good pastor that the United States of America is not the only country that is a part of America. Or that the United States is not really a Christian nation, since only people can be Christians, and the only Christian nation in history is the Church.)
We don’t know if the author of this piece lacks historical knowledge or if someone educated that knowledge out of him. Does anyone actually believe that calling America a “Christian nation” means that all Americans are Christians? No. But it is undeniable that much of our law has its basis in the Bible, and for the most part, American law has served us very well. Many of our Presidents and other leaders have been Christians, have liberally quoted from the Bible and called upon the God of the Bible in times of national distress. Calling America a “Christian nation” is an acknowledgment of the belief expressed by the founders (some of whom were admittedly not Christians) in the founding documents that this nation owes its very existence to the God of the Bible. We see this idea presented in the birth certificate of the nation, The Declaration of Independence:
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.
For many Christians, the Fourth of July is still meaningful, not because it is a day off, or because of the fireworks (at least some towns still have them on the 4th), nor even because of the family gatherings, but because we recognize the many sacrifices of lives and limbs to secure our independence and our continued freedom. Freedom is not free. Looking at the dismal history of mankind throughout the centuries, freedom is not the normal state of affairs! Most people who have ever lived have NOT lived in freedom but rather have subsisted under the boot of one oppressor or another. While our nation is and has always been far from perfect, we have been unbelievably blessed to enjoy the greatest freedom mankind has ever known. Unfortunately, as depicted in a few lines from a song which was popular during our youth, Big Yellow Taxi,
Don’t it always seem to go
That you don’t know what you’ve got ’til it’s gone?
They paved paradise, put up a parking lot.
May we never take our freedom for granted, or forget the sacrifices of those who have given their last measure to preserve it.
Many who willingly gave life or limbs in the service of the nation did so because of their profound belief in God. The founding of the nation with the Revolutionary War, the securing of the nation with the Civil War, and the defense of the nation with the Second World War – all have become intertwined in the Independence Day celebration. Many Christians are extremely grateful to God for permitting us to live in a nation with the freedoms we enjoy, particularly the freedom to practice our religion without government interference. The fact that freedom of religion is under such heavy attack today only makes us appreciate all the more the freedoms we have enjoyed. We also appreciate the unprecedented freedom of speech we have known, which allows our voices to be heard and even to dissent when we feel it necessary. This freedom is also under serious attack today. If conservatives want “free speech” these days, they might be labeled as being fascist…and if they disagree, they might just be rewarded with a beating by those who self-identify as the Anti-fascists. Uh huh…
One of our favorite films is Saving Private Ryan, where a squad of soldiers was sent on a dangerous mission to find the last surviving brother of a family, three of whom had already been killed in combat, to bring him safely home to his mother and family. The film was loosely based on the true story of the Niland Brothers. In the film, a letter was read – attributed to President Abraham Lincoln during the Civil War – to a Mrs. Bixby, the mother of five who at the time of the writing were all thought to have been killed in action. The letter reads:
Washington, Nov. 21, 1864.
I have been shown in the files of the War Department a statement of the Adjutant General of Massachusetts that you are the mother of five sons who have died gloriously on the field of battle.
I feel how weak and fruitless must be any word of mine which should attempt to beguile you from the grief of a loss so overwhelming. But I cannot refrain from tendering you the consolation that may be found in the thanks of the Republic they died to save.
I pray that our Heavenly Father may assuage the anguish of your bereavement, and leave you only the cherished memory of the loved and lost, and the solemn pride that must be yours to have laid so costly a sacrifice upon the altar of freedom.
Yours, very sincerely and respectfully,
Love of country is not wrong. Love and faithfulness to country, of course, must never come before love of and faithfulness to God. Whenever loyalty to our nation comes into conflict with loyalty to God, we remain loyal to God. As grateful as we are to those who sacrificed so much, there is a sacrifice that supersedes all others. The greater sacrifice was the one by our Savior Jesus Christ.
…but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.(Romans 5:8)
While we rejected and despised God, He gave His only begotten Son that whoever calls upon His name will be saved. Because of this sacrifice, and our belief in it, we are at peace with God, and whatever may befall us in this life, we shall live in perfect peace throughout all of eternity. In the meantime, though, we find ourselves on earth, at this particular time, in America. Jesus said that his followers were to be the salt of the earth. Salt is a preservative, protecting what is good and right from decay and corruption. It is very appropriate to pray for our nation and leaders, and do what is in our power to preserve what is good and righteous about it.Ω
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