The Peace of the City
Next month marks the 243rd anniversary of the signing of America’s birth certificate, the Declaration of Independence. The Fourth of July has always been a favorite holiday for me, in part because of its proximity to my birthday. But my love for America’s heritage, and my passion for the ideas that led to its founding, has always made Independence Day especially important.
The 4th also creates a certain discord in my spirit, as I imagine it must for other patriotic, God-fearing Americans. The United States is in crisis, and much of the mess is a direct result of the bad choices we’ve made corporately, and individually, as Americans, over the last 70 years. The principles of divine accountability, limited government, and moral absolutes have been replaced by unrestrained autonomy, expansive government, and moral relativism. What our forefathers took for granted, we refuse to take seriously. And God, the Person the signers of the Declaration acknowledged as the Endower of the inalienable rights of men, and the Supreme Judge of the world, has been deemed, at best, irrelevant to public discussion.
Why then, with such sober realities in mind, do we devote a day to celebrating America? A day on which we show our national pride? A day on which we inevitably utter the words, “God Bless America”?
God tells us to.
That’s right. While God’s Word doesn’t directly discuss Independence Day celebrations, the ever-relevant Holy Scripture does gives the guidance we need to properly celebrate this Tuesday.
Take for instance, Jeremiah 29, a letter written by a prophet of God to God’s people, now captives in a pagan culture, hostile to their faith:
Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, to all who were carried away captive...Build houses and dwell in them; plant gardens and eat their fruit. Take wives and beget sons and daughters; and take wives for your sons and give your daughters to husbands, so that they may bear sons and daughters—that you may be increased there, and not diminished. And seek the peace of the city where I have caused you to be carried away captives, and pray to the Lord for it: for in its peace you will have peace.
Jeremiah’s words must have rattled his readers. Seek the peace of Babylon? Pray to the Lord for His blessing upon the Chaldean hordes? Yes, because their future was inseparable from the Jewish captives.
Lest you think times have changed since God’s people were in Babylon, similar directives have been given to believers in the New Testament. I Timothy 2:1-4 admonishes intercession and giving of thanks for all men, including government officials, and I Peter 2:13-17 directs Christians to use our freedoms to serve God and to “honor the king.”
My responsibility then, as a Christian, is to live boldly for Christ in my country, to be involved in its culture, to pray for it, and to do all I can to bring about its peace. In other words, God wants me to be a blessing to this nation. I cannot think of any better way to be a blessing to my country then by asking God to bless it: with wisdom to know what is right and wrong; with protection from those who would seek to destroy it; and with freedom for the consciences of every American living inside its borders.
Such blessings of liberty are what the 56 signers entrusted to us on July 4th, 1776. May God bless us, the patriots of today, with the fortitude and grace to keep that trust. The peace of our nation depends upon it.