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Land of the Free, Home of the Brave

There is a great comfort in knowing who you are in Christ. And this certainty brings about joy in this life. There is a great comfort in knowing that we belong to and are identified first with Christ – not self; Christ – not success; Christ – not the acceptance or approval of man; Christ – not achievement; Christ – not health; Christ – not nationality, or political affiliation.

We do not belong to ourselves, but belong with body and soul, both in life and in death, to [our] faithful Saviour Jesus Christ (Heidelberg Catechism, Question 1).

So, where does being "American" fit in with all of this, especially on such a beloved holiday in America as "Independence Day". As believers we happen to have so much to be thankful for in regards to living in "America", as believers. Let's take a moment to reflect on some of the beauty and history of this unique place, and may we give thanks to God for his kindness, and may we make His kindness toward us in Christ know to all who we come across in this nation, for the joy of the nations, and for the glory of God. 

 

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Below Article by Kirby Smith

 

“O say does that Star Spangled Banner yet wave; 

O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave.”

 

Those words were penned in the heat of battle when all looked lost late one night, yet Francis Scott Key awoke to see our flag still standing despite enemy shelling! It is because of the brave, that Americans have always been free.

Certainly our great American flag has been closely associated with America’s wars. From its founding during the Revolutionary War, America, led by George Washington, designed and brought forth our great flag. And the National Anthem epitomizes the American struggle which continues to this very day.

Counting dozens of Indian Wars, America has been at war nearly 100 times. The longest on record was the Apache Wars, 1849-1924. However, counting major conflicts only, the tally is about a dozen.

Today “continuing” wars [they may be considered lesser but by firepower standards most are very massive] number about nine just this century alone, such as the Libyan “War on Terror” in 2015-2020, the Syrian Conflict (2014-present), and the Iraq War (same dates). Also, the Somali Civil War remains ongoing, 2007-2021. 

A little known conflict was the quite recent “Operation Observant Compass” in Uganda, 2011-2017. Have you ever heard of that one?

Great Britain fought against America at least three times during our earliest years, including burning the White House during the War of 1812. We have fought France (who was an ally during the Revolutionary War), Spain, Italy and Germany (NATO allies). We have both been foes with China and Russia, as well as allies. In fact it seemed that just days after World War II, we had become — instead of allies - major foes of each large empire. Interestingly, we also went to war against Russia right after WWI.

In smaller conflicts in the Americas, USA has been allied with Paraguay, Nicaraqua, Costa Rica and El Salvador during the Dominican Civil War of 1965-6; and also in Grenada in 1983 with Barbados and Jamaica. 

Surprisingly, two polar opposite US presidents spoke very strongly in support of patriotism and our great American flag. In 1907 Teddy Roosevelt (who had a heroic Army background from the Spanish American War— see, the Battle of San Juan Hill) launched into Americanism and proper immigration:

“In the first place, we should insist that if the immigrant who comes here in good faith becomes an American and assimilates himself to us, he shall be treated on an exact equality…but…there can be no divided allegiance here…We have room for but one flag, the American flag…room for but one sole loyalty and that is loyalty to the American people.”

Not long thereafter America was reluctantly dragged into the “War to End All Wars” - and it nearly did! Ever an isolationist and early progressive, President Woodrow Wilson spoke eloquently of our flag. On Flag Day in 1917 as America entered WWI, he proclaimed:

“We meet to celebrate Flag Day because this flag which we honor and under which we serve is the emblem of our unity, our power, our thought and purpose as a nation. It has no other character than that which we give it…The choice is ours. It floats in majestic silence above the hosts…whether in peace or war. And yet, though silent, it speaks to us – speaks to us of the past, of the men and women who went before us and of the records they wrote upon it. We celebrate the day of its birth, and from its birth until now it has witnessed a great history, has floated on high the symbol of great events, of a great plan of life worked out by a great people. We are about to carry it into battle, to lift it where it will draw the fire of our enemies. We are about to bid thousands…it may be millions [at the time our Army numbered only 100,000]… to go forth to die beneath it on fields of blood far away – for what? For some unaccustomed thing…”

The contrasts of the views of these two presidents could not have been more polar opposite. An avowed isolationist leading an unprepared nation into a world wide war, and pro-war president Teddy Roosevelt “preaching” for patriotism and love of flag so patriotically?

Consider such direct language, how long has it been since we have heard such powerful words?

So what will you make of Independence Day 2021? Will you give thanks for “the land of the free”? Will we pray for “no divided allegiance…” which our “one flag” stands for - an “emblem of our unity”? Will “we celebrate the day of its birth”? 

Right before last Christmas, I met a fascinating young man walking past my home. He was apparently collecting firewood, and was carrying large branches. As I was tending my own wood pile at the time, I offered him a fresh cut pile which he happily accepted. We became instant friends. It turned out he is from Eswatini, a very tiny African nation and he is here seeking US citizenship; he had just married a former Peace Corps volunteer, who is the daughter of a nearby neighbor. Small world.

We have emailed each other dozens of times and I look forward to his next Cameron Park visit. He is completely enamored with military service and is writing a World War II novel about tank warfare. He is possibly the kindest man I have ever met!

Whether merely a kind neighbor or someone from a very distant country that you have never heard of (let alone spell), does not our freedom of religion extend to sharing Christ with the world?

Very significantly, we must remember that our freedoms include the God given freedom of religion which we have enjoyed in a unique way. But, for believers, freedom means actively choosing to live with purpose, not sitting idly by.

As we honor our flag once again, know well that our country was based on God’s biblical precepts:

   “Now fear the Lord and serve him with all faithfulness…choose yourselves this day whom you will serve…But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.” Joshua 24: 14-15.