I have always felt a little uneasy seeing slideshows with pictures of Jesus washing disciples feet combined with US soldiers loading missiles. And even though I believe America is a great country, founded upon good ideas, and certainly used by God for great good—I also believe that America is not the kingdom of heaven on earth. That is why I agree with this post by Frank Turk: Ethel Merman-esque. But I also agree, mostly, with Bob Hyatt: Be Careful What You Worship on July 4.
Before I express why I am not big on celebrating the 4th of July in a church gathering I want to give a couple disclaimers. I want you to know exactly what I am against and what I am not against. I am not against acknowledging that it is the 4th (or Memorial Day, or Veterans Day, etc.). I am not against pointing out the picture of those fighting for freedom and how that is often a symbol of what Christ has done. I am not against thanking those that have served in the military (though perhaps at times it should be balanced by thanking others that just as faithfully serve). I think it is great to honor those that have displayed love by laying down their life for their friends.
What I do not celebrate is the waving of the American flag (only), reciting the pledge of allegiance, singing battle songs, and anything else that exalts America. And this is not just some silly little anti-patriotic pet peeve. My conviction comes straight from Scripture, Ephesians 2 among others.
Ephesians and America
Consider the big picture of Ephesians. Ephesians is the unwrapping of God’s plan to “unite all things in [Jesus], thing in heaven and things on earth”. It is the story of God drawing broken people to Himself. Ephesians is about God redeeming and reconciling a once alienated people. And people from every tribe, tongue, people, and nation are in this story. As God draws disparate peoples to Himself, He is at the same time redeeming our broken relationships and reconciling us to one another. So, this cosmic plan is not God calling individual people to himself as much as it is calling individual people into His church for Himself.
This is pictured in Ephesians 2:11-22. He broke down the dividing wall of hostility and has created one new man from every tribe, tongue, people, and nation. And he does this by annihilating all racial, social, economical, and gender divisions. Yes, we still remain different. But our identity is not found in these things. We are now the church. We are united around the person and work of Jesus. And we ALL have access to the Father through Jesus Christ.
What does this mean? It means that I am more united with my brother in Christ that lives in Iraq than I am with my fellow American that fights for American freedom but refuses to bow a knee to King Jesus.
So even if you say that we are not worshipping America by celebrating the 4th on Sunday morning at least consider this. Are we presenting an accurate picture of the global plan of God? God loves the nations. He shed his blood for the nations. So, if you have to display a flag—display them all. If you have to sing God Bless America add a new line and pray that He blesses the nations.
Please know that I am not anti-American. I love many of the principles that this country was founded upon. Freedom is a beautiful thing, and I never want to take it for granted. But at the same time my freedom ultimately comes from Christ, and that same thing is true of the peoples of every nation.
For a far better explanation of my position (though not on this particular topic) consider this 68 minute sermon from T4G by Thabiti Anywabile: