On this Independence Day here are three reflections as a Christian Pastor in America.
First, I am proud to be an American. Of course there is such a thing as sinful pride that no Christian should embrace. When it comes to national pride, sinful national pride would include the idea that we ourselves made our country or that no other countries have anything much good to offer to the world. This sinful attitude shows up in a sneering and snobbish look toward the other nations of the earth. Christians should reject that kind of pride. We are blessed of the Lord to be in existence and we rely on God’s grace for any good that our Nation has produced.
However, there is such a thing as national pride that is good. It can be summed up in a healthy patriotism that loves one’s country, seeks the best for her, desires to defend her, longs to perpetuate her, and hopes always to make her better. National pride rejoices in a nation’s accomplishments and her unique contributions to the world.
America, of course, has great accomplishments. We might easily forget that we have often (rightly) been called an experiment. Our system of government was and remains an experiment in ordered liberty. We have given a gift to the world with this experiment. We have also provided immense prosperity to the overwhelming majority of citizens within our borders. Furthermore, we have immensely blessed much of the world in our defense of many nations not named America. Here we think of World War 1 and 2 as well as our aid to many allies around the globe. Finally, our Nation has produced unique inventions that have improved the lives of people around the globe. These would include things like medicines, goods, services, food, and so on. We ought take a grateful pride in these and many other accomplishments .
Second, as a Christian, I should never confuse patriotic pride with Christianity. Not long ago I was in a craft store and found this cross draped in an American flag pictured below. I was, quite frankly, appalled. The cross of Jesus Christ, the gospel of Jesus Christ, the promise of Jesus Christ, the forgiveness of Jesus Christ, and the sacrifice of Jesus Christ are all about Jesus Christ. America, as much as I love her and take pride in her, is not the last great hope of the world. The last great hope of the world has a personal name: Jesus.
We are always in danger whenever we confuse our loves and confuse the things in which we boast. Some man might say “I love my dog.” We certainly hope that later that night when he confesses his love toward his wife that he does not mean the same thing as he confessed earlier about his dog! There are different kinds of loves and we ought not confuse love of God and of Jesus with love of country.
To be sure, many American leaders of old portrayed America as in a covenant of sort with God. Everyone from the founding fathers, Abraham Lincoln, and Martin Luther King Jr. have spoke using such covenant terminology or ideas. I personally bristle a bit at this language. But even if do grant that America has looked historically to God for blessing and strength, this does not make her the hope of the world. As great as I do love America, as much as my heart swells with immense joy when the flag is raised and the Banner is sung, my love for Jesus as the Mediator of a better covenant and the Leader of a better coming kingdom far exceeds the joy and love I have for my country.
Third, American exceptionalism is not the same as American perfectionism. Right now there is raging debate in our Nation as to whether or not America is a good Nation. I personally do believe that the arc of American history paints America in a good light. However, that is not to diminish the evils we have either tolerated or propagated. Here are four examples that I can list with four simple words or names: Slavery, Hollywood, Abortion, and Pornography. In some of these areas we have literally led the world in propagating evil.
I cannot tell the story of America without realizing and sharing that we are an imperfect union. As much as I do believe in the greatness of America, we have sinned as a people in some spectacular ways.
In spite of these sorrows, I’m proud to be an American because she is a great Nation! Today I will listen to patriotic music, enjoy the fireworks, and celebrate this great experiment! I do so with a greater boast in Jesus and a healthy realization that our Nation ever needs to pursue true righteousness.