Patriotism


I have a scar on my right hand. When I see that scar, I remember. The reminder, while scars are not always pleasant, takes me back to days in my youth ministry when I began learning that I couldn’t do things that I had done when I was part of the youth group and not the leader of it. You see, the scar is a memorial to a year at youth camp when I (as an old man of about 28 years) got out on the softball field with the teenagers. In my zeal to outrun the ball to first base, I tripped over the bag and flailed my way to the chain link fence and cut open my hand trying to stop the fall.

Truthfully, though the scar is a reminder to me of days spent working with a great group of teenagers, and introducing them to a life lived with and for Jesus.

This weekend, we in America celebrate Memorial Day. It is a time set aside to honor those who sacrificed their lives on battlefields in order to enjoy the freedoms that are part of our nation’s DNA. While we don’t want to park on thoughts of war and men giving their lives on battlefields, it is important to remember.

Memorials are set up for that reason: to remind those who see them of what has gone on before; to spur them on to thankfulness for the blessings in life; and possibly to encourage them to live the same kind of sacrificial lives for future generations.

Set up some memorials in your life today, and remember.

[Joshua] said to the Israelites, “In the future, when your children ask their fathers, ‘What is the meaning of these stones?’ you should tell your children, ‘Israel crossed the Jordan on dry ground.’”  —Joshua 4:21-22

One of my favorite quips goes this way: “Two things I have learned in this life – there is a God, and I’m not Him.” Sometimes in this land where we relish freedom and individuality it is easy to forget that we are not as in control of life as we would like to think we are. We make decisions and change direction from time to time, often thinking that we are the ones driving our life. But scripture teaches us that there is more to our life than what the human eye can see. There is a greater control over what happens in life than our mere say-so.

An ancient term for this is providence. Used in the right manner, this word reminds us that we have a Creator and it is He who makes all the decisions in life. He is the one who makes even the choices that we make possible. In short, God is in control. This is a huge realization to make. First of all, because it relieves me of the responsibility to always make the right decisions. And also, because I can rest in the assurance that He will never make a wrong move.

As we celebrate our nation’s birthday this week, let us remember that God is in control of the little things and the big things that are in our life. You may have seen the video of Red Skelton as he explained the Pledge of Allegiance to the American flag phrase by phrase. He closes with this sentiment: “Since I was a small boy, two states have been added to our country, and two words have been added to the Pledge of Allegiance: Under God. Wouldn’t it be a pity if someone said that is a prayer, and that would be eliminated from schools, . . .?”

“I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the place of slavery. Do not have other gods besides Me.”  (Exodus 20:2-3)

Over the next couple of weeks, we Americans will hear more and more talk of a patriotic nature. As America’s Independence Day draws close our hearts will turn to things that make us thankful that we are part of this great nation. I think it is worthwhile to be patriotic and to proclaim boldly your national pride.

One of the things that makes me proud of my heritage is held in the first amendment to the United States Constitution which reads “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” In short, not only am I free to worship how and where I want, the government is restricted in telling me how and where to worship, who to worship, and I also have the freedom to gripe about it if I so wish.

What’s even more amazing is that God has designed His plan in such a way that I have even more freedom than allowed me by the constitution. God wants us to be free to choose—and He gives us the freedom to choose, even if we choose not to follow Him. Certainly there are dire consequences if we choose the way other than God’s way, but we still have that freedom. In Christ we can be truly free!

“Christ has liberated us to be free. Stand firm then and don’t submit again to a yoke of slavery.”  —Paul (Galatians 5:1)

Remember. This weekend as our country takes a pause to remember those who have died in defense of our nation’s basic tenets, I think that is appropriate for us to remember.

Remember the ones who have fought for your freedom to worship today, and every week, as you love to do.

Remember those who taught you how to stand up and defend your rights and your faith.

Remember those who penned words that have been etched on every American’s heart for 240 years.

Don’t take for granted the service that has been rendered to us in order that we might live freely and honorably.

Remember also, the One who made it possible for us to become one body here in this place; the One who died for true freedom to be experienced by all men.

Perhaps Rudyard Kipling said it best in the refrain of “Recessional” which reminds readers to hearken their hearts and their minds to the God who directed the steps of mortal men “lest we forget, lest we forget.”

There are some who would argue that there is no place for this kind of patriotism in our worship, but I believe that when we remember the price Christ paid, we must also remember those men—martyrs of the faith as well as heroes of our liberty—who sacrificed that we might be free.

So, remember.

“All these were approved through their faith, but they did not receive what was promised, since God had provided something better for us, so that they would not be made perfect without us” (Hebrews 12:39-40)