I love my country and I’m proud to join my fellow Americans in honoring her this Independence Day. But I do think some aspects of America today are not quite what the Founders had in mind. They believed the kind of democracy we have would depend upon the kind of people we are. While the Founders were not all Christians, they were all godly people who understood that a good society is only possible when its citizens band together and help each other. The critical word here is interdependence. The Declaration of Independence established a political separation from England. But when they set out to frame our constitution they cast our national vision in terms of interdependence. Just look at the language of the Preamble: we the people (not just me and mine)…in order to form a more perfect union (us)…establish justice (for all)…insure domestic tranquility (between us)…promote the general (all) welfare…secure the blessings of liberty for ourselves and all who come after us.
Whenever I hear people talk about freedom and what they believe it means to be an American, in many cases what I hear them describe is individualism. I’m free to do whatever I want. I take care of me and mine and the government should get out of my life. But if all 300 million plus Americans are mainly interested in individual freedoms how in the world can we have a good society?
In the worldview of the Bible we are both individuals and members of community; real freedom grows in relation to both. Here’s what the apostle Paul had to say on the matter:
It is absolutely clear that God has called you to a free life. Just make sure that you don’t use this freedom as an excuse to do whatever you want to do and destroy your freedom. Rather, use your freedom to serve one another in love; that’s how freedom grows. For everything we know about God’s Word is summed up in a single sentence: Love others as you love yourself. That’s an act of true freedom. If you bite and ravage each other, watch out—in no time at all you will be annihilating each other, and where will your precious freedom be then? (Galatians 5.13-15; The Message)
I believe Christians have an important role to play in rebuilding the social fabric of our society. Sadly, at least as I see it, some Christians today are tearing us apart. So little love; so much judgment and blame and condemnation. O, that we could all hear and understand Paul’s wisdom: that God’s Word is fulfilled in one thing—love your neighbor as yourself. That’s how God will bless America, when we the people learn and practice love of neighbor. That’s what will bring a more perfect union, justice, tranquility, general welfare, and the blessings of liberty for all. Christian people can and should be a blessing to America. To do that we must stand beside her and guide her with the light from above.
All good things to you,
david gilliam, pastor, faith united methodist church, austin. for more about faith church, click here.