As we head into this Independence Day, I have mixed feelings. As friends and family eagerly make plans to celebrate the holiday, I am finding that I am having trouble mustering up any interest in joining in on the festivities. Always at this time of year, I have written of how much I love my country and how blessed I feel to have been born in such a place as this. But now?
I took a walk this week with my mom. Our strolling conversation went to plans for the Fourth. I told my mom about my difficulty in having any desire to celebrate our country right now. I told her that in the past, no matter what shenanigans were going on, that I had always felt like this was still the greatest nation on the planet and that I would still celebrate it. But this year, I just wasn’t sure I had it in me. This year, I wasn’t sure that I could still say I believed our nation to be the best in spite of all our troubles.
My mom paused for a moment and said, “Well, I still believe it.” My parents are a part of that generation that has been hailed the “greatest generation”. My parents handed down a country that was still based more or less on the principles of our founding fathers. A country where families were strong, faith in God mattered, and a person’s character meant something. My mom is still holding onto that America, but I’m not sure that America still exists.
I heard a message this week concerning the passage of scripture in Matthew where Jesus cursed a fig tree. Jesus and his disciples happened upon this tree, and from some distance, Jesus saw it and decided that a nice fresh fig would hit the spot.
You know what that’s like. You see that Chicfila sign and decide that some Chicken Minis would hit the spot… only you realize that it’s Sunday and there will be no Chicken Minis for you because… Chickfila is closed on Sundays… which is admirable until you want Chicken Minis on a Sunday.
Similarly, Jesus approached the fig tree; almost tasting the juicy fruit on his lips, only to find the tree had no fruit.
In much the same way that I sometimes curse Chickfila on Sundays, Jesus cursed the fig tree. The big difference being, when Jesus curses something, it dies.
You see, it was the purpose of the fig tree to produce fruit. Of what use is a fig tree that doesn’t grow figs? Jesus didn’t see any use at all.
Similarly, what good is a believer, or a nation of believers, if they produce no fruit for the Kingdom of God? And what of that nation that not only doesn’t produce fruit, but goes so far as to take stands against it’s very Creator and His holy Word? Do you see my dilemma? That nation is of no use at all.
So I’m landing somewhere here. Stay with me. American Christians have for so long only understood Christianity in the context of the church in the United States. Most of us have been blissfully unaware of the Church of Christ around the world. Lately, though, the safety net of our United States Constitution doesn’t seem so secure as it once did. Where is a Christian in America to look now for security? For direction?
We have to look back to our first love. We have to look to Christ. As followers of Jesus, we are citizens of the Kingdom of God. Up to now, this hasn’t really been all that important. Up to now, we have been able to live nice, neat, comfortable lives in this place of bliss and pleasure as dual citizens. We have been citizens of the United States of America first, and citizens of the Kingdom of God, second. Heretofore, there has been no conflict, but the winds of change are coming.
The Bible tells us that we do not belong here. We are just passing through. Our citizenship is not here. I live in the United States, but my hope is not here. Not in it’s government to protect me, not in it’s riches to sustain me. It might be time to consider reversing the order of our citizenship.
The America that my parent’s generation handed to mine was won by the sacrifice of men and women who believed in something bigger than them. I celebrate those people and their sacrifices. As we watch our freedoms fall away from us in spite of all those who fought to protect them, I can still celebrate true freedom.
This once great nation may be only a weak image of what it once was, but I can rest my hope in the One who has offered me ultimate freedom. I can place my trust in the fact that I am a part of an eternal Kingdom that spans the globe and that will never fall. As followers of Christ, we may face perilous days ahead, but I’ve looked to the end of the book…
and we win.
Light up the sky with fireworks and wave the sparklers. That’s surely something to celebrate!