As we approach the July 4th holiday and celebration, I’d like to reflect a little on what it means to be patriotic, and what the Bible has to say about patriotism.
In Psalm 33:12-17, the Psalmist writes:
“Happy is the nation whose God is the Lord,
the people whom he has chosen as his heritage.
The Lord looks down from heaven;
he sees all humankind.
From where he sits enthroned he watches
all the inhabitants of the earth—
he who fashions the hearts of them all,
and observes all their deeds.
A king is not saved by his great army;
a warrior is not delivered by his great strength.
The war horse is a vain hope for victory,
and by its great might it cannot save.”
Clearly, we are being told God intends for the inhabitants of nations to live in a state of happiness and peace. God does not want nations to depend on the strength of their armaments, but rather on the strength of their relationship with the Lord.
As a nation, our forebears fought and strove to fashion a new nation of freedom for all people. A nation conceived in the idea of liberty and justice for every person within its borders. This idea came at a very dear and precious price, the lives of so many were as Abraham Lincoln once said, “sacrificed on the altar of freedom.” On this national holiday, we remember their sacrifice, and give thanks to God for what has been brought into being because of it.
In my family, both my father and grandfather served in the military and later in the National Guard. My grandfather served during World War II, and my father served during the Korean War. Both of them were patriots and men of honor. They passed on to me and my brother the idea of serving something greater than yourself. They believed in our nation, and what all it could achieve when we pull together and shoulder sacrifices for others. I get very emotional when I hear “God Bless America,” “America the Beautiful,” and especially “The Star Spangled Banner.” My eyes mist over, my heart swells, and I am filled with pride at what is said in those lyrics.
As I reflect on our current state as a nation in God’s world, I wonder how well we have lived up to what we sing and say. Are we a nation with justice for everyone? Are we a country that values each individual person? Are we a people who live out what we espouse and continue to strive for the highest ideals?
I believe we want to be that nation. I believe that nation beats in the heart of every person who calls themselves an American. My father had taught me to honor and respect everyone. He taught me that patriotism doesn’t mean blind loyalty to those who wave flags and try to wrap themselves in our national heritage. It would be too easy to use the sacred words of freedom, honor, bravery and patriotism to exact a blind following. He taught me to look at the motivations of those who use those words. Are they intending to serve the whole, or are they intending to prosper or empower themselves.
My friends, we are an imperfect people striving for a perfect world. A world where all are valued and loved because they, like us, are children of God. Our nation isn’t perfect, and we have many things we could improve upon greatly. Our intentions as stated however, are of the highest ideals. We, you and me, are patriots if we continue to hold ourselves accountable to the idea that all persons “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.” When we work tirelessly to make these statements true, we are patriots on par with George Washington, Dolly Madison, Sacagawea, Crispus Attucks, Paul Revere, Nathan Hale, Frederick Douglass, Harriet Tubman, Rosa Parks, Harvey Milk, Madeleine Albright. We don’t settle for anything less than a world that lives up to who God calls us to be.
In Hebrews 11: 13-16, we are told:
“13 All of these died in faith without having received the promises, but from a distance they saw and greeted them. They confessed that they were strangers and foreigners on the earth, 14 for people who speak in this way make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. 15 If they had been thinking of the land that they had left behind, they would have had opportunity to return. 16 But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God; indeed, he has prepared a city for them.” You see, the writer of Hebrews understands we are temporary inhabitants of this land. While we are here, we desire to make it as perfect as is possible. We seek a place, a home, a nation that is pleasing to God. That place ultimately is heaven, but our job here as patriots is to strive to bring heaven on earth. That’s what’s pleasing to God, and that’s what makes a patriot’s heart swell with pride.
We know, as a country, we have achieved so much. We have come such a long way, but we cannot rest on what has been done, we must continue to work for a more perfect place. In Micah 6:8 we’re told “He has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” Unless we have done as the prophet Micah has enjoined us, as patriots we still have much to do.
My prayer for each of us this July 4th Independence Day is we can celebrate our rich history as a nation. That we continue to seek peace, happiness, justice, and equality for all. That we never rest until those things are afforded every person.
Blessings and Peace,