Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Our Fathers' God

A while back, there was a post on brother Mike Cope's blog that seemed to stir up quite a bit of controversy. He questioned the appropriateness of the reciting of the Pledge of Allegiance in worship, and the comments started flying! Honestly, I was shocked; I had no idea so many would be offended by this concept. Yet, there were those with the opinion that it was wrong to pledge allegiance to anything other than God, so I must respect the reasons why they hold to that opinion, why they would be offended by the reciting of the Pledge or the singing of patriotic songs in worship.

However, whenever I've said the Pledge of Allegiance (although I admit I don't believe I've ever done it at church) I've just always done it with the understanding that I will be loyal to my country so long as it doesn't require me to be disloyal to my God. I can, with good conscience, pledge a lower level of allegiance to my country, than the allegiance I have for my God. I just assumed this went without saying. So I'm not sure, but I believe this is why I'd be okay with the reciting of the Pledge in church. This is why I have been okay with singing patriotic songs in church.

Still, on this Independence Day, I wanted to take a look at what God has to say about some of this. After all, the main thing that we celebrate in reciting the Pledge or in singing a patriotic song is the liberty, freedom, and justice of our great nation. So what does God have to say about such a concept as freedom? I believe it is evident, all the way from Genesis to Revelation...let's take a look...

"God blessed them and said to them, 'Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground.'"--Gen. 1:12
---God originally created humans to be free. He wanted us to have the authority and freedom to enjoy this world in which He placed us.

"Therefore, say to the Israelites: 'I am the Lord, and I will bring you out from under the yoke of the Egyptians. I will free you from being slaves to them, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with mighty acts of judgement. I will take you as my own people, and I will be your God. Then you will know that I am the Lord your God, who brought you out from under the yoke of the Egyptians. And I will bring you to the land I swore with uplifted hand to give to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob. I will give it to you as a possession. I am the Lord."--Ex. 6:6-8
---Here we see the start of a big example of God's love for freedom and justice. He has compassion on the Israelites, who are being oppressed by the Egyptians. He keeps His promise to their forefathers, by bringing them out of slavery and into the land He promised.

"Give the One who remembered us in our low estate and freed us from our enemies. His love endures forever."--Ps. 136:1a,23-24
---This is only one of many of the Psalms in which the writer either is praying for or praising God for freedom from his enemies.

"Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke?"--Isaiah 58:6
---In the context of this passage, God is declaring to His people that their fasting has been unacceptable to Him because their hearts were not right. They were simply going through the motions. Rather, He says that He would desire freedom for the oppressed and the end of injustice. Again, only one example of many similar verses found in the writings of the prophets.

"The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor."--Isaiah 61:1-2
---Here is yet another one of Isaiah's prophecies that speaks greatly of freedom. Freedom is the first thing that is mentioned as something for His people to look forward to in the year of His favor.

"He [Jesus] went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom. And he stood up to read. The scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written: 'The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach the good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor.'"--Luke 4:16-19
---Amazing. Here, in the New Testament, we find the fulfillment of Isaiah's prophecy about the Lord's favor in the coming of the Messiah. That's why He came. To free prisoners and the oppressed, to give sight and preach the good news.

"To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, 'If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.' They answered him, 'We are Abraham's descendants and have never been slaves of anyone. How can you say that we shall be set free?' Jesus replied, 'I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave to sin. Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed."--John 8:31-36
---Here we get to see Jesus elaborate on His mission to set people free. He has come to set us free from sin, to make us children of God, and to give us a permanent place in the family of God.

"You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness...because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death."--Rom. 6:18, 8:2
---I hate to pull these verses out of their context, since one is from chapter 6 and the other from chapter 8, but they seem to be the most powerful and to-the-point verses in this long passage about being freed from sin. Unfortunately, I don't have time to sit here and type out all of Romans 6-8. If I did, I would. Instead, I highly recommend that you read through it. Paul goes into much detail, explaining how Christ did, indeed set us free, as He said He would in John 8. Paul, instead says that we are "slaves to righteousness," yet this is different, because it is a slavery that "leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life."

"It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery."--Gal. 5:1
---Once again, I hate to pull this verse outta context, please do go read some more of Galations as well to learn more about our freedom in Christ. Paul is encouraging the church members not to try to conform to the ways of the law, to which they used to be enslaved. He reminds them that Christ died to set them free from that law, and that it is only through Christ that they can be saved.

"The blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkled on those who are ceremonially unclean sanctifiy them so that they are outwardly clean. How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God! For this reason Christ is the mediator of a new covenant, that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance--now that he has died as a ransom to set them free from the sins committed under the first covenant."--Heb. 9:13-15 .
---Seems the Hebrew writer also explores this concept of Christ setting us free from the old law which leads to death, and giving us hope under a new covenant.

"Speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom."--James 2:12
---James, as well, encourages people to live according to the law that gives freedom. As he is encouraging his readers to be "doers," back in chapter 1, he is encouraging people to listen to the word of God. He says that the word, this perfect law, gives freedom.

"To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood, and has made us to be a kingdom and priests to serve his God and Father--to him be glory and power for ever and ever! Amen.--Rev. 1:5-6
---Here, we see John, the one whom Jesus loved, also recognizing that Christ has made us free by His blood. John reminds us that freedom doesn't come free. There was a Price that was paid.

Much like the freedom that we celebrate in this great nation. No, I don't think I have a problem celebrating the freedom of our nation by pledging a certain level of allegiance to my country, or by singing patriotic songs of our freedom. For our country is based on one of the ideals that is so prevalent throughout God's word.

In fact, my favorite patriotic song to sing is "My Country, 'Tis of Thee." The reason I love the song is the beauty of it's last verse. Does anyone know the words to that verse???

"Our fathers’ God, to Thee,
Author of liberty,To Thee we sing;
Long may our land be bright
With freedom’s holy light;
Protect us by Thy might,
Great God, our King."

"Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith..."--Heb. 12:2

1 comment:

Keith Brenton said...

The subject of Jesus and liberty is one that the adult curriculum at PV will be studying this fall ... in fact, the committee is discussing it even as I write this.