On July 4, 2021 America turned 245 years old. 245 is super old in human years, but many nations have been around a whole lot longer. Still, 245 is worth celebrating! So, Happy Birthday to us!
Of course, some Americans look at current events and our history with deep criticism. They say the American story is about an unfulfilled vision and a pattern of abuse. Others say the American story is about freedom, triumph, and heroes. Maybe it depends on which people and events you choose to highlight?
If you go to your uncle’s 85th birthday party, you don’t have to pretend that his whole life was perfect in order to wish him a happy birthday and honor him. But you also shouldn’t tell everyone he was the most wonderful man you ever met if he had a bad drinking problem. As Kevin DeYoung points out in his podcast on “The Meaning of America,” it is not mutually exclusive to both celebrate and criticize our nation.
As I wrote in the blog “America, Politics & the Christian Faith,” our nation is a great blessing, but far from perfect. Because sin fills every nation of the earth, we can be honest that there is much in our past, and even in our present, to grieve. The injustices in our nation’s history against Native Americans, African Americans, other minority groups, women, and the unborn are shameful. Despite this, America has not gotten it all wrong, so we can and should love our country. But let’s not be shortsighted: America will never be perfect. Let’s be patriotic without being nationalistic. Let’s be thankful as we continue to pray for and strive for justice, peace, equality, and security.
Remember, America is only our temporary home. We live in America – not as citizens of this country – but as ambassadors of God’s kingdom. As we learned in our sermon series “Life in Exile,” we are sojourners, resident aliens on earth. Yes, America is where we live, but from an eternal perspective we are citizens of heaven. We live here temporarily. Our primary identity is as Christians, not Americans. Our primary passion is to honor and proclaim King Jesus.
To be a faithful ambassador means we settle into our home country, but we never get too comfortable because we are waiting for heaven (Phil. 3:20-21). It means we live honorable lives so that people might see God’s glory through us (1 Pet 2:11-12). It means we seek the welfare of our city, because we know that God has a long-term plan (Jer. 29:4-11). It means we carry the message of reconciliation and speak on God’s behalf (1 Cor 5:17-21).
If the followers of Jesus all over the 50 States of our Union took this calling seriously, what might America look like?
I am glad God put me in this nation, and I’m also pretty sure after I enter my eternal home in God’s Kingdom, I’ll immediately forget all about this country. And so I say, “Happy Birthday America!” right after “Come, Lord Jesus!”