Happy Independence Day America!
On this day when Americans celebrate their 234th year of declared independence (technically, independence was won in 1783 after the war, which would make it their 227th year), I felt impressed to repost a portion of a newsletter that we wrote shortly after Independence day two years ago. Even if you are not American, I believe that the principles and values communicated in this short essay will empower everyone – regardless of country or nationality – to become better citizens.
Just recently (July 4th), we celebrated America’s independence with fireworks, parades and outward displays of patriotism as we remembered once again how God has made us into a great, powerful and blessed nation – a nation that takes great pride in its liberties and freedom. I couldn’t help but feel a deep sense of gratitude and awe as I stood with my family among the congregation of worshipers one Sunday as we sang the national anthem – The Star Spangled Banner.
As we were singing this great anthem, I began to reflect on the words of Jesus in the Gospel of John when He said to his disciples, “If you love me, keep my commandments” (John 14:15). In Jesus’ understanding, true love is demonstrated through corresponding actions. We can claim to love God as much as we want, but unless our actions correspond to our confession, our confession is vain. In the same way, we can claim to love our nation and country all we want, but unless we demonstrate it though corresponding actions – not just in wearing the t-shirt, purchasing the flags or showing off our nation’s colors – our words and our songs are in vain. True love for one’s country goes beyond the patriotic act of paying the ultimate sacrifice in death; rather, it is more accurately demonstrated through our conduct, character and compassion in life.
We claim to love our country, but how many of us are guilty of cheating on our taxes? – A nation’s major source of revenue for subsidizing the needs of the country and developing the necessary infrastructure necessary to sustain it. To cheat on your taxes is to show utter disregard and contempt for your country’s welfare and existence, yet many do it without considering the negative effect it can have upon the entire nation. How selfish and hypocritical of us?! It does not matter who is in government, or if you like them (voted for them) or not; it is everyone’s responsibility to pay taxes and support the nation. Not even Jesus was inclined to shirk this God-given responsibility (Matt. 22:17-21).
How about obeying your nation’s laws? We’ve already discussed cheating on our taxes, but what about something as “insignificant” as obeying the speed limits? Does your complete disregard of your local, municipal, county, city and state laws and speed restrictions accurately reflect an attitude of love and respect for your nation and fellow man? Are you aware of the negative effects that your actions are having upon the nation? How about your kids? What sort of values are you communicating to them when they see that the only time you conform to the legal speed restrictions is when a policeman or sheriff is present (or in the vicinity)? What are you communicating to your kids about authority and citizenship when you keep a radar detector in your vehicle? That it’s okay to disobey just as long as you don’t get caught? What kind of behavior will they model when they grow up to be “responsible” adults?
I know we say that we love our nation, but it’s time to demonstrate our love by keeping the laws of the land and living as respectable and model citizens. Stop criticizing the government and its policies and start praying and confronting the spirits and issues that are threatening to pollute or destabilize the nation. You can confront the issues and make your voice heard without being overly critical, harsh or judgmental against the government and its leaders. The words of Jesus still ring true today both with respect to God as well as to our nation: If you love me, keep my commandments.
May we be true citizens of the Kingdom and patriots of our nation by following the example of Jesus. Never once did Jesus lift up His voice against Caesar or publicly criticize the governing authority of the nation, even though these leaders were no less wicked or morally corrupt than ours today and the nation of Israel was far from independent. John the Baptist opposed King Herod’s immoral lifestyle and Jesus resisted Herod’s threats while referring to him as an old fox – a deceitful and destructive pest (Luke 3:19; 13:31-32). Yet neither of these instances was occasioned by policy decisions per se, but by personal moral issues and an attempt to impede Jesus’ Kingdom assignment.
Independence Day is more than grilling some barbecue or shooting off some fireworks; it’s about a recognition of freedom. Freedom, however, always has boundaries. It does not give us the right to say what we want, where we want, when we want, or behave how we want. Freedom is not the right to do (say or be) what you want, but the responsibility and empowerment to do (say or be) what you should.
For the King and His Kingdom,
Robert G. Paul
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