I will return to my posts on Bible study tomorrow. However, I felt compelled to take a brief hiatus and discuss my reflections on the day.
Traditionally, I have thought very little of this holiday, choosing instead to focus on the day off work, the grilled goodies, and the ensuing fireworks show to cap off the evening. Yet this year, I find myself celebrating our country’s independence on a foreign country’s soil. More significantly, this particular country is in the middle of a battle for its own independence. Not from some oppressive imperial power (they loosed those chains over 50 years ago), but from themselves. Less than a week ago, the citizens of this country voted in the first free, democratic election of their history. May God grant them a new era of liberty from oppression.
Needless to say, my location has forced a fresh look at independence, particularly today. I must admit I really miss being in the States on a day like this. Not only is it the Fourth of July, it is also Sunday, which means churches all across america will be celebrating this day as they gather. I have always been a critic of the “God and Country” Sunday services we have in the States, and for the most part retain my opinion.
Let me make my position clear before I risk offending the sensibilities of the more patriotic of my readers. I love our country, even more now than I did when I resided there. However, I feel we must never make the mistake of worshipping anything other than God almighty. Too often, the Fourth of July (and Memorial Day for that matter) veer scarily close to praising our country, instead of the God of our country. We are, I am afraid, often guilty of worshipping our forefathers instead of our Heavenly Father on these special occasions.
That being said, today must be a day of thanksgiving. It is a day set aside to celebrate one of the most significant events in history. It was certainly by God’s all-knowing providence and almighty hand that the United States earned its independence. Without a doubt, the United States is a player in God’s history, a history he has been unfolding ever since “In the beginning…” We must not lose sight of our blessings as a free nation, a people who have civil rights unprecedented in human history. It is truly a “government of the people, by the people and for the people,” and despite our predisposition to chastise and criticize it as ineffective and broken, it works. If you feel otherwise, come live in my shoes for a month.
Today is a day to thank those who have labored to create such a great land, but more importantly it is a day to thank the one who made land and sea. It is a day to praise God for the blessings of a free society, a gift not a promise. I have a blue passport. I was born an American, and that is not of my own doing. Just as God designed the political boundaries of the globe, he decided under which flag I would be born. Those of you who share in this blessing, consider well your stewardship of such a valuable gift.
I do not know the ways of God. They are far higher than the ways of man. I cannot speak to why we have been given this gift when others do not possess it. Why do we have a voice as others, under the darkness of oppression, cry out to deaf ears? Please do not make the mistake of assuming it is God’s judgement on an unbelieving world. Please do not pat yourself on the back as though you have earned God’s favor. I do know that God is just and that those who suffer the pains of oppression in this world have the offer of eternal freedom and life through Christ. I also know that he has called us (not Americans, but Christians… please do not confuse these terms) to take the news of that promise to an unbelieving world. For some of us, that means we will not see fireworks tonight. However, that is a very small price to pay to see God’s vision that people from every tribe, tongue and nation will one day be free from the oppression of sin.
So, eat a hot dog for me, enjoy the fireworks, and please please do not take lightly the gift of independence, or your stewardship of that precious gift.