A subject that I had not giving a lot of thought to is the appropriateness of celebrating America’s Independence in a worship service of the local church. Perhaps it is so common I had never had occasion to consider it, but a thoughtful article by Thomas Kidd on The Gospel Coalition (article here) gave me pause to consider it.
He carefully traced the history of the churches of Early America having a celebration on the Fourth of July unless it fell on Sunday, but not in the regular worship services until later years. Kidd felt it blurred some important lines and made suggestions on how to handle the situation. You can read the article yourself to form your own opinions.
After some thought, I believe the issue is what it actually means to you. Do you love America right or wrong? By love I mean that she retains superiority no matter what? Is God indebted to our nation? Do you love your God far more than your nation? When conflict arises, who is to blame–the Lord or the good old USA?
When I spoke of America to our congregation and when sang the patriotic hymns, I specifically meant:
1. I love the country the Lord allowed me to be born in.
I suspect people from other countries would feel the same way about their homeland. I’m not claiming superiority, just that the land of your nativity naturally will always be a warm spot in your heart– a spot that a Christian will be thankful for.
2. I love the Christian heritage of my country.
I love it so much that I praise my God for it and the blessings that we still derive from it to this day. We were once a truly Christian nation and the precious possession of freedom sprang directly from it. As we lose these freedoms and run from our Godly heritage, I, of course, lament the losses, but I praise the Lord even more. I feel like the hearts of our congregation was united on that point. I have to believe the Lord would be pleased that our thanksgiving on that matter would be directed back to Him.
On the other hand, our love of country and patriotism does not blind our eyes to its sins. To balance our perspective, we further believe:
1. I hate the sin that is destroying my country.
Without hesitation, we proclaim where our country is fighting God and heading to judgment. When an issue comes up, we never cover it for our nation. The Lord is right and our nation is wrong. Period.
2. I feel compelled to pray for my country.
God is just and our country has no free pass on its wickedness. That means we prayed for our country–Lord forgive our sins, Lord turn our nation back, Lord send revival. As I prayed, I believe the people had the appropriate attitude of heart. At other points of the service, I noticed men leading in prayer returning to that same theme.
We are blessed too that our patriotic hymns turn us back to the Lord acknowledging His help and mercy in our lives. I see no conflict in singing those songs to the glory of my God.
We had a patriotic element in our service, but the last song we sang was wholly about worshiping the Lord. Our sermon was totally about yielding to God in our personal lives because He and His Word are the ultimate authority.
All in all, I am in favor of an appropriate patriotic element in our July 4th services as long as everything is in its place–our Lord is supreme and our nation is not. God bless America!