Tomorrow is the 4th of July. It marks the 246th year commemorating our nation’s independence from the Empire. What a history we have in such a short time (historically speaking)! Courage, wisdom, perseverance, kindness mingled with enslavement, greed, corruption and violence. We are not different from any other nation in these ways but we are different from them in others.
The founding DNA of our nation differs from that which established the kingdoms of old. Neither fiefdoms nor monarchies crafted our nation. Neither invasions nor gifts established America. No, it was a zeal for independence in many ways that did it; from: religious persecution, unjust taxation, squashed opportunity or even to seek a second chance. All along there was a sense of destiny, of hope, of boundlessness that carried the pilgrims and then pushed the settlers. That sense has not gone away. It is what supports concepts like the “American Dream.” That a refugee from Ukraine, South Sudan or Guatemala can come here and make something new and belonging to them is an inheritance from what founded this nation in the first place.
Not all have adopted such a sense; neither have all been in positions to achieve it if they had it. No nation’s history contains no dark, immoral or wicked spots–ours certainly doesn’t. But, it would not be appropriate before Almighty God to maximize our faults so that the good is finally eclipsed. We used to know this. I say “good” because what has been and is present in America is good: a Constitutional republic, a Bill of Rights to secure our independence from our government, the economic / medical / arts / engineering developments and the ability (for most) to walk the streets without fear or the oversight of an ominous dictator. Even those who are oppressed can find their way out of their oppression (that might be controversial for some but history doesn’t support such a view).
Our historic faults and their present impacts must not be minimized, to be sure, but neither are they to be what defines us as a people. America has been and is a good place to call “Home.”
But it is not a Christian nation. It is not a holy people. It is not the apple of God’s eye. It will not ever be those things because it never can be. It will not be a place of libertarian freedom nor will it be a place of pure justice. Independence Day isn’t the day to set our minds and hopes on these things hoping that America might one day resemble them (or that we did in the past and it must be reclaimed). The Fourth is a day for us to give thanks to God that He would give us such a gift as America. That it has been a place where injustice has been addressed; oppression has been broken; help has been administered; ignorance has been educated; compromise has flowed. What other nation has been called a “melting pot”?
Christians in America should give thanks to God that we have been born here. Our brothers and sisters worldwide might have some or none of what we enjoy. Our citizenship, therefore, should be a stewardship. That we use the freedoms we have for the benefit of others around us. Sometimes that will mean we work for the oppressed, for the unborn, for the widowed, for the refugee. Sometimes that means we will compromise for legislation that treats all people equally without trying to guarantee equal outcomes. Sometimes it means we say “No” to our selves and our tribe for the benefit of others.
I am convinced that Christians above all others should be active in these things. What have we got to lose? Since our Home is heaven and in it will be the perfections of everything we could ever hope or think, we can strive to make America a better place for all people–even if it is imperfect. America doesn’t need to be heaven; it needs to be a better America. God made a covenant with Noah wherein He promised to preserve the earth until Christ’s return and He calls us to build a civilization steeped in restraint, justice, enterprise and civility. For Americans, this means us in this place and time.
Some will want to include in this program lifestyles and commitments that all know are incoherent, wrong and harmful. It has always been this way. In our project, there will continue to be significant disagreement and fracturing and this should not be surprising. Some will not get “their” way even if their way is the moral way (the way commended to us by the very nature of things). Some will not get “their” way even if it held with exuberant passion. But neither should this surprise us. For those in Christ who have an eternal home, imperishable prepared for us by Christ, the faults in America are real but they are not ultimate.
Consider this: for those who do not know Christ, this place contains all the joy and happiness they will ever know. At the moment of Christ’s return, all who have refused Him in this life but have received His common grace will receive it no longer. Why can’t Christians work to make it a better place for them? Out of compassion? Most parents teach their children to leave a place better than when they found it. As Christians, set apart in the Church to be received as the Bride of Christ one day, shall we not work to leave America a better place than we found it?