Summary: A Patriotic sermon for the 4th of July based on material by Vance Elzinga
Blessed is The Nation!
It was the middle of a very unpopular war, a conflict noted for its shabby ideology and selfish ends. Besides which, it wasn’t going well. On the night of September 13 a man found himself sloshing around in a small boat. He was on a mission. He’d volunteered to take part in a prisoner exchange. He was sent out just a week after a devastating attack to trade a captured officer for an aging but highly respected American physician. This man was not given much chance for success, but he would try. He’d been making his way down the Chesapeake Bay for two weeks now. Slowly, he got closer and closer to the enemy. Tension hung like a thick fog around him.
He had a right to be worried, for this man was no soldier. He was a lawyer, in fact. He was a Christian lawyer, on this mission because he could negotiate. The Americans who sent him hoped so, anyway. But when he finally made contact with an enemy ship, there was no time for negotiating. The British were getting ready to launch another rocket assault. He watched helplessly from the enemy deck. True story.
The English politician William Wilburforce, living during the extremely nationalistic late eighteenth century, defined patriotism this way: “A quality that binds men and women to their homeland without confining philanthropy to a single nation”. In other words, you are thankful for the place God has put you and are a loyal citizen. At the same time, you care about other people too. That’s really what Psalm 33 says; “Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord”.
Do you care about your country? Do you want the best for it? Do you want to be a good citizen? Okay Christian, take note! The size of its army or the strength of its economy saves no country. God’s eyes are on those who fear him and put their hope in him. So help your country do that, and you’ve really made a difference.
J.I. Packer once wrote a Christian Citizen’s Checklist. Listen to what he said.
1. Keep informed. Otherwise you can’t judge well about issues, vote well for candidates, or pray well for rulers.
2. Get an opinion and be ready to stand up for it. Withdrawing from the world wasn’t Jesus’ approach. Despite the fact that the earliest Christians were unrecognized and even persecuted by their governments, they went out to transform their society for Christ.
3. Pray faithfully for America. There is a time when loving your country means making a stink about something that is not right. There are things a Christian ought to protest. But a Christian starts with prayer, not complaint. The effectiveness of prayer is enormous, but not unless we use it.
The New Testament doesn’t speak specifically about active political participation, but then it wasn’t an option for first-century believers. The Roman Empire was not a democracy. Most Christians were not even Roman citizens. We live in a representative democracy. It not only opens the door to a wider range of political possibilities; it requires a stronger commitment.
As American citizens we have the right to be involved in the public and legislative arena. As Christians, we have the responsibility to be involved. An author once asked, “Is there anything worse than the strange strangulated sense of ‘I should have spoken’?” Our great system of self-government assures every Christian a voice in the affairs of the nation. God wants us to do his will in government as much as He wants us to do it in the church and at home.
Edmund Burke said something I’m sure many of you have heard before. “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” We need to vote in elections and referendums. We should be there when there is an opportunity to express public opinion. We should be led in voting by issues rather than personalities. We should not vote for single issues in isolation, rather we should vote with the community welfare in mind.
Why should Christians get involved in shaping their country? In the end there are only two attitudes we can adopt towards the world: Escape or Engagement. Escape means turning our backs on the world, washing our hands of it. In contrast, engagement means turning our faces toward the world in compassion, getting our hands dirty, sore and worn in its service. Are you optimistic or pessimistic about our country’s future? Your view is probably a measure of your investment in its success.
Our American hero must have handled himself well that night, because hours later he was returning from the heat of battle with his man, Dr. William Beanes. He also brought something else with him. It was a song. The unpopular conflict was the war of 1812. The man was Francis Scott Key, and the song was the Star Spangled Banner. Surprised?