Happy 4th of July! Today is the day our nation is celebrating Independence Day—the day which represents the birth of the United States of America. No longer would we be dependent on Great Britain, and even more, no longer would we be subject to unfair taxation and rule. Instead, we would have the freedom to govern ourselves under an authority which has our best interests in mind.
And understandably, this was (and is) cause for much celebration. Take note, for example, of the vast importance this day held in the mind one who was a crucial figure at this time: John Adams. He wrote the following to his wife Abigail when thinking of this great occasion (which was about to happen when he wrote this):
“The second day of July, 1776 (he was off in his prediction by two days J), will be the most memorable epoch in the history of America. I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary festival. It ought to be commemorated as the day of deliverance, by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires, and illuminations, from one end of this continent to the other, from this time forward forever more.”
As you can see, Adams saw what was happening in his day as monumental. And he was right. Almost 240 years have passed and to this day our independence and subsequent freedoms are strong–the celebrations as a country do indeed span from shore to shore. Parades and fireworks displays and all sorts of festal gatherings mark this anniversary with great enthusiasm. There is great pride and patriotism which have American flags waving throughout our cities and states in front of houses, schools, businesses, on street poles, and many more.
But I have a question about this celebration of our nation’s independence. How are we as Christians to think about this day? How does a biblical worldview inform how we live in this “land of the free?” I’m sure much could be said on this, but let me offer two key reactions.
The first would be that of gratitude—gratitude ultimately to God. He is the one who sets up kingdoms and nations, kings, and Presidents. The freedoms we enjoy and the strengths of our country these many years we owe to God and His grace. We are blessed to live in a land where people are not coerced into worshipping on the one hand, and neither have they been prevented from worshipping as their conscience dictates on the other. Along those same lines, it’s so wonderful to live where the gospel has gone forth with much power.
Under God, we should also have gratitude to those who have fought and even died to protect this nation’s freedoms. Without these sacrifices throughout our nation’s existence we would not have retained the liberties we value so much today.
Next, in light of the Scriptures, the second key reaction to this day should be looking beyond America to heaven itself. After all, “our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ (Phil. 3:20).” This means that any freedoms and joys we experience as Americans are temporary. “Here,” the author of Hebrews makes clear, “we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come” (Hebrews 13:14). Here, we are those who are “strangers and exiles on the earth” (Hebrews 11:13). Here, we should be those who “desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one” (Hebrews 11:16).
In other words, any celebration we have for the United States of America should be vastly overshadowed by the joy we have now in part and even more in what awaits us in Heaven for all eternity. America is not where we put our ultimate hope or allegiance. Jesus is. The USA will one day go the way of all earthly nations, but as Christians, we can have sure hope that it will only fade away to give way to our true belonging, our true nation, led by the King of Kings: Christ himself. That is something to truly celebrate!