July 4 is a national holiday. It marks the anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776 by delegates from the 13 colonies. Many see the 4th of July as the birthday of the United States of America. There will be picnics, parades, and fireworks.
For some in church leadership, questions are often raised on the relationship between the church and state. Should we in the church discuss matters of state? Should the state be involved in matters of the church? How do we understand the separation of church and state? Is it appropriate to sing patriotic songs in worship? For some, this is a passionate and complex discussion.
One thing that is clear in scripture is that the church is to be involved with the state by praying for its leaders. The Apostle Paul encourages us:
1 First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers,
intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for everyone,
2 for kings and all who are in high positions, so that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and dignity.
3 This is right and is acceptable in the sight of God our
Savior, 4 who desires everyone to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. 1 Timothy 2:1-4 (NRSV)
God and country: I love God with all my heart and I am grateful to God for the privilege of living in this country. I am free to preach and teach the good news of Jesus Christ without fear of persecution.
I am free to pray openly at a public table giving thanks to God for the food before us as well as for the person or family I am with. There are many in our world who do not have this blessing. I give thanks for the men and women who have been willing to lay their lives on the line for our country and our freedom through military service, law enforcement, or humble submission for the sake of peace.
Our country is not perfect. Nor do we have a perfect history. I am part of that imperfect country and history. The church is part of that imperfect history. So, I pray. I pray for our leaders: I try to remind myself to pray for them before I critique them, especially since I would never want their role. I pray for our people: I ask forgiveness for our sins and grace for our future. I pray for peace in our world and in our country. I pray for unity in such a divisive age. I give thanks for our freedoms and our blessings. And I pray that God will guide us to share our blessings with those who have little and that all His people may someday have the freedom and blessings we often take for granted.
2 Chronicles 7:14 (NRSV)
14 if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, pray, seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.
May “God bless America” to the glory and honor of God.
In ministry together,
Rev. Dr. Terry L. Moore