It’s July 5th and this morning I stepped out on our balcony and put out our flag one more time. We don’t have a bracket to insert the pole into, so I used spring clips to attach it to the railing. It doesn’t really matter how it is displayed, the flag is a symbol of our nation and of our devotion to America. I love my nation and this Independence Day season I have been feeling particularly proud to be an American. Yesterday we celebrated at noon by grilling hot dogs and enjoying my special chip dip. In the evening I grilled some steaks and then, while eating chocolate cake (specially crafted by my wife) we watched the first of the Independence Day movies starring Will Smith and Bill Pullman. (We’ll check out the new sequel sometime soon.) We cheered right along with the actors when the alien ship crashed and burned. Yay, America!
America is great, but what makes her great? Where does our “I can do anything” spirit come from? What is it about the character of our nation that causes her to shine so bright? Why is it that oppressed people across the globe look to America for hope? The answer to all those questions is found in her foundation. You see, God was involved in every step of America’s formation. It started with the storm that blew the Mayflower off course, forcing the Pilgrims to settle at Plymouth instead of Virginia. God wanted the Pilgrims to lay a foundation of faith on which He intended to build this nation. The colony at Jamestown had too much aristocratic and godless corruption in its character and He didn’t want that influencing the Mayflower’s passengers. The Mayflower Compact laid the foundation for the republic that was to eventually encompass the whole continent. The Pilgrim’s unyielding conviction that God came first in every law and every decision became the first brick in the foundation on which America stands.
When the thirteen colonies were well-established and moving in a godless direction, God brought to America a massive revival (called the Great Awakening) that changed the way the colonists thought of themselves. Men like George Whitefield and Francis Asbury tirelessly rode thousands of miles on horseback, preaching the gospel. Whitefield became America’s first celebrity, recognized by all both by sight and by his preaching. If Whitefield showed up in town everyone dropped what they were doing and rushed to hear him speak. The newspapers published his sermons. Through his preaching the hearts and minds of the American colonists began to move with a single identity. God was forging a nation of people who were beginning to think of themselves as one people under God’s authority and leading.
When King George’s oppression became intolerable, God raised up George Washington to lead the ragtag Continental Army to eventual victory. God even preserved his life in miraculous ways. Years before, during the beginning of the French and Indian war, as a young officer rallying the troops in a lost battle, he took multiple bullets through his coat that did not harm him. God kept him alive for a future purpose. Washington was a man who sought God and lived by faith. It was his vision for America that drove him and his leadership that shaped what America would become. We are right to call him the father of our country.
God was involved in every step of America’s beginning. During the Constitutional Convention agreement on what the Constitution should look like – and how the nation’s government should be constructed – had come to an impasse until Ben Franklin, a man who had never acknowledged Christ (even though he was good friends with George Whitefield), suggested they pray. After that prayer, agreement was found and the Constitution was born. The rule of law, law that found its foundation in the Bible, was established and the republic was born.
In the early nineteenth century (the 1800’s) America experienced a second Great Awakening that once again shaped the character of the American people. Just prior to the Civil War a preacher-free and spontaneous revival swept across the nation, both North and South. People simply started gathering in the churches to pray and seek God. That revival is credited with strengthening the American people so that American could survive the Civil War.
Tell me, before America, was there ever a nation that, after conquering an evil foe, turned and helped rebuild that conquered enemy? America does that. We rebuilt Germany. We rebuilt Japan and Iraq. America has taken Jesus’ words, “Love your enemy” to heart. I’ll never forget the image, broadcast during the first Iraqi war, of an American GI embracing a surrendered Iraqi soldier who was weeping with fear. America embraces those she conquers. What other nation in history has ever done that? None. Why do we do that? Because the motto on our coins speaks the heart of our nation – “In God we Trust!”
Every step of the way God has involved Himself in America and that truth answers the questions I asked. Why is America great? Because God’s blessings have made her great. Why do oppressed people across the globe look to America for hope? Because America, for all her faults and many deep sins, still shines the light of Christ.
I love my nation!