A Fourth of July Note-To-Self (2012)

Happy Independence Day, fellow Americans!   The implications of July 4, 1776 are astounding: we are free. My thoughts on this memorial day:

1. I am free in every sense, physically and spiritually.

2. I am wealthy in every sense, materially and spiritually.

3. Patriotism is noble.  Christian brotherhood is nobler.

I am celebrating America today.  I read through the entire Declaration of Independence with rapt attention - awe and gratitude.  I'm taking my family to see the fireworks tonight and I am 100% sure that I will cry when we sing the national anthem.  I owe a debt of gratitude which I can never repay to the soldiers who fought (and fight) for my liberties; I owe them for my childhood, for my past, present, and future.  I love America, and I am loyal to her.  But the kingdom of God is greater than this great country, and I love the souls of men more than I love my own freedom.

Today as we celebrate our country, let us not - even for a moment - place patriotism above Christiandom.

Sometimes, on the Fourth of July, I find myself thinking about the Pharisee in the Bible who prayed, "Thank you, God, that I'm not like that man."  (Read his prayer in context here.)

I know it's not the same thing (because the Pharisee was boasting of his completely irrelevant moral goodness), but I can't help but see the similarity, so I'm going to use it as a metaphor.

On the Fourth of July we think about the freedoms of speech, religion, and the press; we think about the right to bear arms, the right to a trial by jury.  We think about democracy.  We're astounded by the blessings bestowed on our nation.  Thankful we don't face persecution.

Then, after some reflection we say,

"Thank God I don't have to live in oppression like those poor other people.  God Bless America."

And we eat our barbecue and shoot off some bottle rockets.

We have to be better than that.  As we joyfully celebrate America today, I hope that gratitude births in you a deep compassion.  I hope that your freedom literally inspires you to greater generosity and a greater commitment to make men everywhere free.


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