Fireworks, watermelon, American flags, cookouts, and patriotic music – these are just some of the things that make up the Fourth of July for many Americans. As we prepare to celebrate, my mind wanders back to those Independence Day celebrations of my formative years….
I recall the warnings to be careful with sparklers and firecrackers and the cold refreshment of hand-cranked homemade ice cream at the end of a sweltering July day in Alabama. I also vividly remember as a kid the first time I heard the joke “Do they have a 4th of July in England?” After thinking No, of course not, and then Why would England celebrate our independence from them; I finally realized Oh yeah, July 4th is just a date on the calendar. (I’m slow. I know.) That little moment woke me up to the rest of the world. Suddenly, I was a child of the world, not just an American. In a similar way, we as Christians in America need to wake up to the world.
As an elementary school kid, patriotism and love for our “dear ole USA” was encouraged. And as a Christian, honoring and respecting our country and its laws went hand in hand with the godly values taught. Prayers were said at school (back then) and the pledge of allegiance to the country was recited at the church Vacation Bible Schools. It was all meshed together in my mind – the whole “being an American and being a Christian” thing. Somehow faith and nationalism became mixed in the minds of many. And now we find ourselves as adult Christians who serve up Western culture right along with Christianity at times.
This Independence Day as we ooh and aah over fireworks displays set to our favorite patriotic tunes, let’s plan to do some self-evaluation.
- Let’s separate those expectations based on American traditions from expectations based on the mandates of Scripture.
- Let’s realize that respecting our country is good, but honoring God is best.
- Let’s be more concerned over the fact that the people we encounter each day are lost souls rather than that they are Democrats or Republicans – foes or friends it seems these days.
- Let’s exercise our freedom to pray and speak about Christ more than we lament how we feel those freedoms are being threatened.
- Let’s fight against those inner tendencies to buy into the American dream more than we sell out to Christ.
- Let’s respect all nations, peoples, tribes, and tongues, and develop a hunger to pray for them, relate to them, love them with the love of Christ, and reach them with the Gospel.
- Let’s treat every man, woman, and child we meet – no matter where they come from, what they look like, how they are dressed, what color their skin is, or how much the media tells us to fear them – as they truly are: men, women, and children Christ gave His life to save.
Enjoy celebrating America’s birth! Examine your perspectives. Let’s live out Scripture even when our walk is oddly out of sync with American culture. And take some time this holiday to demonstrate Christ’s love to all the folks you encounter at the fireworks display!