What is it about the flag that stirs such deep emotion in some of us? What is it about that piece of cloth — the red, white and blue — that provokes such feelings of pride and joy and grandeur?
I like the explanation of one older man whose grandson turned to him and asked, “What is the flag, grandpa?”
The grandfather thought a moment and then responded, “Well, son, the flag is a bit of cloth and a bit of love and a bit of blood and a bit of hope, all woven together and crowned with stars. It’s everything we know this country to be and everything we expect this country to be and everything we pray it will be.”
First, “What is the flag, grandpa?”
“It’s a bit of love.”
I think we will all agree that love is a mysterious force. Love, we are told, and probably know from personal experience, is often blind to the faults of the beloved. But in the long run it is a weak love that cannot face reality.
Loving America does not mean that we ignore her faults, past or present. It does not mean that we are unaware of her inequalities or injustices that must be challenged and changed.
However, loving America does mean having a grateful heart for the blessings God has provided and the freedoms that countless Americans have put their lives on the line to preserve.
In one church I served, we held an “Appreciation Service for God and Country” on the Sunday nearest the Fourth of July. On the following Monday morning, a professor came to my office and wanted to know why we had held that service.
I said, “Basically, we held it for two reasons. First, there is something in the Bible called a ‘theology of blessing.’ It’s located in the Wisdom literature and reminds us to be thankful for our blessings. Second, we held that service because of our love for our country.”
The professor simply replied, “I just wanted to know.” It’s a bit of love.
Second, “What is the flag, grandpa?”
“It’s a bit of blood.”
At the conclusion of the Constitutional Convention in 1787, Benjamin Franklin was said to have been making his way down the steps of Constitution Hall when he was asked by a lady, “Sir, what did you give us?”
Mr. Franklin, in answering said, “A Republic, lady, if you can keep it.”
By so answering, Franklin surely recognized that it may be as costly to keep the republic as it was to get it.
Since the utterance of these words, the price has, indeed, has been great. Many of our finest young men and women have given “their last full measure of devotion” for the preservation of this republic. And, I might add, they are still doing it.
Writing in his book “The American Spirit,” David McCullough states, “The laws we live by, the freedoms we enjoy, the institutions we take for granted — and we should never take for granted — are the work of others who went before us. And to be indifferent to that isn’t just to be ignorant, it’s to be rude. And ingratitude is a shabby failing.” It’s a bit of blood.
Third, “What is the flag, grandpa?”
“It’s a bit of hope.”
In one of his speeches, President John F. Kennedy said, “I am certain that after the dust of centuries has passed over our cities, we, too, will be remembered not for our victories or defeats in battle or in politics, but for our contributions to the human spirit.”
That’s our hope. That we Americans will rise above our differences and begin a new era of cooperation and trust.
That we Americans will celebrate our diversity and view it as God’s gift to us.
That we Americans will move beyond our skepticism or cynicism and see beyond the limited barriers of our day.
That we Americans will repent of our arrogance and struggles for power.
That we Americans will treat fellow Americans as we would be treated.
That we Americans will see things that never were and think possibility.
That we Americans will keep the vision and goal of righteousness and peace before us.
That we Americans will realize the greater reality of God and our need of his grace and strength.
“What is the flag, grandpa?”
“It’s a bit of cloth and a bit of love and a bit of blood and a bit of hope, all woven together and crowned with stars. It’s everything we know this country to be and everything we expect this country to be and everything we pray it will be.”
No wonder numbers of us love this country.