Psalm 33: 12-22
Tuesday will be the 241st year anniversary of the United States. A sermon by Chuck Sligh posted on Sermoncentral.com) begin with these important observations about the founding of our nation and its religious heritage:
• It was founded by pious Pilgrims and Puritans.
• Two of the greatest religious revivals in history, known as the First and the Second Great Awakenings, occurred in the United States.
• Rev. John Witherspoon, a Presbyterian minister, was a signer of the Declaration of Independence, and almost all the forefathers extolled Christianity and its morality.
• It was the teachings of Christ that was the basis for the end of our country’s national disgrace—slavery, and it was devoted Christians who lobbied endlessly to abolish it.
• My County, ’Tis of Thee was written by a Baptist minister, Samuel Francis Smith.
• The Pledge of Allegience was written in 1892 by a Baptist minister, Francis Bellamy.
• The words “In God We Trust” are traced to the efforts of Rev. W.R. Watkinson.
Last week we focused on the freedoms we enjoy—Freedoms as individuals who have freewill and can make choices and think creatively; Freedom as a Sovereign Nation; and our freedom as children of God to live holy and upright lives that seek to glorify our Heavenly Father.
Today, let’s think about Patriotism and particularly aboit our responsibility to our nation.
I. WHAT IS PATRIOTISM?
a. Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines “Patriotism” as “ love or devotion to one’s country.” Dictionary.com takes the definition one step more: “devoted love, support, and defense of one’s country; national loyalty.”
b. If I were talking to someone from another country, I would not be surprised to hear them say that their country was the greatest—even though I would disagee and argue that the USA is the greatest. It just seems natural to have a strong sense of loyalty and devotion to one’s own homeland.I have noticed that on Mothers’ Day or Fathers’ Day it is common to hear someone give a testimony about their parent and say, “My Mom (or My Dad) was the best or the greatest parent ever.” I never try to poke holes in that kind of testimony even though if one took it literally it could be considered a put down to all other parents. But, of course, we know that such tributes come from children who love and appreciate the love and the sacrifices of their parents in raising them!I’ve heard it said that some families may fight among themselves, but let an outsider threaten any member of the family, and the whole family is ready to fight and defend!That is the kind of sentiment that I feel is only natural when we think about our nation.
c. Patriotism says, “My country may have problems, but I defend its right to exist and I support its efforts to govern itself in the best way it possibly can. It is the emotion that wells up within as the National Anthem is being sung and the Stars and Stripes are waving in the wind!. It is the pride we feel when our Olympians win the gold medal, and, even more so, when our troops go off to fight for our nation and return victorious!.
d. President Trump’s campaign slogan was “Let’s make America Great Again!” I read the caption of an article a week or so ago that said, “America was never great!” it was pointing out some of the mistakes we have made in history. I strongly resented the article. I read another statement recently that said,, “America has always been grest. Let’s Keep America Great!” I like the sound of that much better.
II. SHOULD WE BE PATRIOTIC?
a. The obvious answer to that question is “Yes.” But that “Yes” has boundaries. We should demonstrate love and loyalty, but we must be careful as Christians not to make our country an Idol. Our loyalty first and foremost must be to the Kingdom of God. But the Bible makes it clear that we should demonstrate respect for our government. Romans 13:1-7 makes a clear statement about our attitude towards secular government: “ Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. 2 Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves.3 For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and you will be commended. 4 For the one in authority is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for rulers do not bear the sword for no reason. They are God’s servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. 5 Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also as a matter of conscience.6This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God’s servants, who give their full time to governing. 7Give to everyone what you owe them: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor.”
b. The Bible is equally clear that we are to obey the laws of the land only to the extent that they do not go against the commands of God. Peter & John voiced this clearly in the Book of Acts after they were commanded by the high court to not preach or teach anymore in the Name of Jesus. Their reply: “…Which is right in God’s eyes: to listen to you or to him? You be the judges! As for us, we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard.” (Acts 4: 19-20).
III. AS CHRISTIANS, HOW DO WE SHOW OUR PATRIOTISM?
a. 1 Timothy 2:1-2 gives us these instructions: “First of all, then, I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men, for kings and all who are in authority, in order that we may lead a tranquil and quite life in all godliness and dignity.”
b. It is so easy to criticize those who are in authority. But our first responsibility should be to pray for them. I remember whan I was elected to a place of leadership on our district. There were decisions that had to be made that involved a lot of board and committee meetings. On one occasion we decided to promote a major event that involved several states coming together for a Saturday event. Because of the distance that many would have to travel we were concerned that many would not be able to get back to their home churches in time for their Sunday morning services. So we thought it would be good to provide an optional worship service for those who wanted to attend. It was a big eye-opener to me when I was bombarded with criticism from some of my colleagues slamming me for encouraging their folks to not get back to their own churches. I was accused of all sorts of things. Rather than trying to understand the reasoning behind our decision and without bothering to check out the facts, My council and I were really slammed! That event helped me to realize how often people jump to conclusions without checking out the facts—and how easy it is to criticize leadership without understanding the struggle that occurs when making leadership decisions.
c. And if that is true in the church world, how much more so is it true in the secular arena. Yes, leaders do make mistakes, and, yes, they must be held accountable. But we must be careful to lift our leaders up in prayer and be slow to judge those things about which we have little knowledge!
d. We need to spend much time praying for those who are trying to govern us—Praying that God will give wisdom and guidance in decisions that are being made, that those in authority will truly seek what is best for the people they govern and not make decisions that are for personal and selfish gain.
e. Peter gave this word of instruction to those who were servants of God in the Roman Empire at a time when they were facing severe persecution from the government: “Live as free people, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as God’s slaves. 17 Show proper respect to everyone, love the family of believers, fear God, honor the emperor.” (1 Peter 2: 16-17).
It has been said that Christians make the best citizens of all. And , yes, we should be patriotic and we should pray for our leaders and be supportive by obeying the laws of the land. But the best way of all to be patriotic is by determining to be the best citizens we can possibly be.
I’ve had the privilege of being the pastor of some really great Christian people. When I came Branson I was just 31 years old and thought I knew all the anwers. 35 years later I realize that I don’t even know what the questions are. One of the couples that were leaders in our church for years was David & Gloria Kiser. David had been a pastor for a number of years in the Christian Missionary Alliance denomintion and was an ordained elder. One day I got him aside and asked him a serious question that was something like this: “How was it that you could see me bumbling along and often making immature decisions and still be supportive.—didn’t he ever want to just say if he were pastor, he would do it differently?” His answer was profound. He said that when he and Gloria felt led to leave the pastorate and move to Branson to work, they decided they were going to try to be the kind of church laymen that they always wanted in their church when they pastored.”
And, in a broader sense, we should all try to be the kind of citizens that we think everyone should try to be.
And the first step in becoming that kind of citizen is to make sure you have your citizenship in heaven secured! When you serve the living God with all your heart and strive every day to be as much like Jesus as you can be, then you will be the kind of citizen our nation needs!
God Bless America! And may each of us be a blessing as we serve the true and living God!