At national observances like Memorial Day or Independence Day a predominant theme is patriotism.
Patriotism has been defined as devoted love, support, and defense of the fatherland, that is, the land of one’s ancestors or one’s native country. In the carrying out of the theme for these special days, we may hear references made to the patriotism of the founding fathers of our nation or of other citizens who distinguished themselves as great leaders, defenders of our native soil, and loyal to the country we treasure so dearly. Great is the benefit to the homeland when its citizens are patriotic.
When the subject of partiotism is the focal point at such observances, very often it is linked together with the name of God. We might hear the name of God invoked in a patriotic speech, song, or prayer.
As children of God we readily acknowledge that the LORD our God is worthy of receiving honor, glory, and praise, because He is ultimately responsible for the favorable conditions we enjoy as a nation, such as freedom, peace, and prosperity. His unseen hand is mightily active behind the scenes, working through the forces of nature, government officials, military personnel, and other fellow countrymen. Since the future success of our nation is dependent upon the gracious hand of God, we ought to make supplication to Him for continued blessings upon our country.
A prayerful hymn that was written for our country as a patriotic song resounds with these words:
God bless our native land! Firm may she ever stand Thro’ storm and night! When the wild tempests rave, Ruler of wind and wave, Do Thou our country save By Thy great might. For her our prayer shall rise To God above the skies; On Him we wait. Thou who art ever nigh, Guarding with watchful eye, To Thee aloud we cry, God save the State! Amen. (TLH 577)
While it can indeed be fitting to link patriotism with God, when the name of God has been used at national observances, it is quite common to find misconceptions being promoted and the name of the LORD not being hallowed.
The faulty statement has been made that the founding fathers of our country were Christians who led the way in establishing a Christian nation. A closer look at the religious beliefs of the founding fathers reveals that a number of them (for example, George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, and Thomas Paine) were Deists. Although Deism acknowledges a belief in a god, yet it rejects the belief in the Triune God. When Thomas Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independence and made reference to God, he was not referring to the true God of the Bible.
The prayers that are offered at patriotic events sponsored by veteran organizations quite frequently are directed to a generic god. As the gathered crowd (of mixed religious belief) hears and is included in this kind of prayer, the false impression is given that people of all faiths believe in and pray to the same God.
When the psalmist declares, “Blessed is the nation whose God is the LORD” (Ps. 33:12), he is speaking of the Triune God.
The LORD has graciously and mercifully blessed our nation in spite of the false beliefs of many in our country. How important and needful it is for us as Christians to testify to our fellow citizens concerning the LORD of the Bible, so that our countrymen will glorify Him for the blessings we enjoy as a nation and offer prayers to Him on behalf of our nation.
The LORD our God is the source and fountain head of the highest form of patriotism. This spirit of patriotism does not come from an inner sense of personal nobility, but rather from the love of God in Christ Jesus.
Our Savior’s sacrificial love inspires us to be devoted citizens and faithful stewards of the land and country in which we live by His grace. And we are moved to willingly lay down our lives for our fellow countrymen, because Jesus laid down His life on the cross for our eternal salvation.
The LORD God be praised for the blessings we enjoy as a nation. May He instill in us and our fellow countrymen the spirit of Christian patriotism, and by His grace continue to bless our native land.
–Pastor Mark Gullerud