Reflections from the Pulpit

Independence Day: worth celebrating and why

Independence Day, July 4, is a great national holiday. We celebrate going from a collection of colonies that were brought forth out of a rugged wilderness into a democracy never before known in the world and a world power to provide leadership, support and protection among other nations. What has been accomplished in this country in two hundred and fifty years has truly been remarkable and has made us the choice of millions who want to come here to live. We have been blessed and should take this day of celebration to express our gratitude to all who have made our life here possible. In spite of all of our disagreements and factions, our internal struggles and calls for improvements, the reasons to celebrate overshadow and should make us thankful.

Our founders credited God for His guidance and provision of the leadership that has led us to our being that great nation.

Every now and again I see news that highlights actions or groups that point out that we’re less than perfect, or that society is still in need of change for the better. I think that at least in part, they’re reminders that we’re still growing and still have things to accomplish; but I don’t want to lose sight of how far we’ve come and our cause to celebrate “Independence Day” and all that it means. When some of our Pilgrim ancestors first arrived here; they stopped to give thanks to God for their safe arrival and the opportunities before them. God’s place in their lives was a part of what carried them on and laid the foundations for what we have today. I find that scriptures talk about our relation with God and not only as individuals but His collective people across the ages. The first Epistle of Peter calls us to “Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do wrong and praise those who do right. For it is God’s will that by doing right you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish men. Live as free men, yet without using your freedom as a pretext for evil, but live as servants of God. Honor all men. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor (1 Peter 2:13-17).” That’s quite an admonition, but deserves our attention.

The call to be “subject to every human institution” and referring to our leadership sounds a bit absolute; but it doesn’t deny freedom of expression and our right to be heard. The passages suggest that leadership is called to keep order in our society, for without an orderly society we will cease to exist. Anarchy is never an answer; and there must be provision for people to be heard. The idea that the best thoughts and directions will come from the populace is noted; the best will rise and by force of what they offer for the good of all, those with lesser ideas (“the ignorance of foolish men”) will give way to the best interests of all. I doubt that “ignorance of foolish men” means only something in a negative sense; rather feel that it has to do with their just not knowing and being unaware.

Sometimes people that propose things that are in their selfish interests or self-serving; such directions are not in the interests of all, or the interests of being a democracy.
We are to live as free men but our liberty is not to be used for purposes other than for the benefit of all and for God’s intentions for us (i.e. as a “pretext for evil” as Peter puts it.) Honor all men; respect one another even when we may not agree and treat everyone as worthy of being heard, respected and having rights.

Love the brotherhood; love the family that makes up the being of our nation. Fear God; have a deep respect for God and what He has given us and how we’ve been blessed by Him. Honor the emperor: show respect even if we may disagree, acknowledge their places of leadership and do our part to contribute to the greater good.

When I think of all that we have and all that we are, we are a blessed people. Even if not perfect, blessed still. We’ve come a long way toward being that great nation and our national holiday gives us a moment to reflect on how God has blessed us. My hope is that we will continue to build on the greatest of foundations in the world and work to bring in that Kingdom of Heaven that is to come at the end of time.

We have so much to be thankful for; our calendar gives us the opportunity on Independence Day. May we all give thanks and celebrate God’s gifts to us all.

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