In the last couple of weeks, I have observed two very different parades. One was in celebration of a basketball championship, which is good and fun. The other was to show support for the Beale family, who paid the ultimate price for national freedom.
It was this parade that led my thoughts to our nation's heroes, our proud heritage and our ultimate hope, and to a sermon (author unknown) I had found on the subject. I am grateful to the unknown pastor who helped me express my thoughts.
Patrick Henry is credited with many worthy sayings and events. However, none is more noteworthy than these words in which he said, "It cannot be emphasized too strongly or too often that this great nation was founded, not by religionists, but by Christians; not on religions, but on the Gospel of Jesus Christ."
From its earliest moments, God weaved into the framework of America Christian men and women, who longed for the freedom to worship without government intervention. These people believed liberty was worth more than life, and were willing to die rather than live under the tyranny of church and state. In addition to being expensive to purchase, our freedom has been expensive to maintain. The cost of war exacted a heavy price during the American Revolution, World War I and World War II. The price was not lowered in Korea or Vietnam. In addition, we must remember those who sacrificed in our own communities, so freedom could be enjoyed by all Americans.
The images of bursting bombs and the talk of SCUD missiles in Operation Desert Storm, the first television war, are forever in our minds. And as we have been recently reminded as a community, we have men and women giving their lives in Iraq and Afghanistan so we can continue to live a life that is free. A life free from the horror of terror. A life free to worship Christ without government intervention, and the freedom to pursue life, liberty and happiness.
The sermon states that our heritage is good because our heritage is Christ and the freedom to worship Him. Our hope is our heritage -- Jesus. I am proud to be an American. I am proud to be a follower of Christ. I am grateful for our heroes who have sacrificed so that our heritage does not become a recent memory, and our hope forgotten. John McRae challenged us to remember our heritage and continue in the pursuit of freedom in his poem "In Flanders Fields."
In Flanders fields where the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the Dead.
Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we live in Flanders fields.
Take up our quarrel with the foe;
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow in Flanders fields.
Benjamin Franklin once said, "Whosoever will introduce into public affairs the principles of Christianity will change the face of the world." Christian principles are the foundation of our nation. However, they are under attack. We must stand with resolve in our religious liberty or it will be taken from under our very noses.
How do we preserve the heritage of the American dream? II Chronicles 7:14 states, "If my people who are called by my name will humble themselves, and pray and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land."
This verse of Scripture speaking to followers of God states that we must humble ourselves and call on the Lord. This desire to call comes from the realization that we are not self-sufficient, but rather God-dependent. We seek God through prayer and through surrender to Him as Supreme Lord. However, it is not enough to desire God's will and blessing. We must also turn from sin and align our lives and desires to God's Word. The benefit is that God will hear our prayer, forgive our sin and heal our land.
While all are free to worship as they choose, we must not forget our nation was not founded on religion, but God's Word and the salvation we have through His Son.
Freedom is never free. Our freedom from sin cost Christ His life. Our freedom as a nation cost men and women their lives in battle. Although it is not free, I am glad that Christ paid the price for our freedom over sin. And, I am glad that men and women, like John Beale, thought that our freedom as a nation was worth sacrificing for as well.
Let's honor the sacrifices made for our freedom by daily humbling ourselves, praying,
turning from evil and seeking God.
The Rev. Chris Reynolds is pastor of Mt. Zion Baptist Church and Christian Academy in Jonesboro.