Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a disgrace to any people.
The 4th of July has often led people to feel, if not to say out loud, “I’m proud to be an American.”
We recognize that many see the day only as an excuse to eat watermelon and watch fireworks. However, those who have worn the uniform, especially those who have worn it in distant and dangerous places, they tend to celebrate Independence Day on a different level. They are more likely to celebrate with pride.
There are people today who question if it is proper to have such pride. They point to the many failures of our nation—both real and imagined. Some seem ashamed of America. Some view its history as a disgrace.
The people of God know that the only accurate picture of America is the one seen through the eyes of God. After all, America is God’s gift to the people who dwell within its borders. The question is, how are Americans using his gift?
The answer is: “It is a mixed report. What is praiseworthy is counter-balanced by the disgraceful.”
King Solomon recognized that to be true for the nation of Israel in his day. His message to us is clear.
“Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a disgrace to any people.”
That would seem too obvious to need mentioning. Yet, many don’t see it that way. Instead, some view sin as a reason for bragging—as something to be proud of.
This is not something new. About those flaunting their sinful lifestyle in his day, Jeremiah asked: “Are they ashamed of their loathsome conduct?”
He answered his own question: “No, they have no shame at all; they do not even know how to blush” (Jeremiah 6:15).
But sin is shameful. Pride over sin is simply sinful pride.
America needs to be ashamed of sin. To the extent it is not, it is disgraceful.
Since it is easy to point to sins that stain America’s fabric, one might wonder if there is anything we can be proud of.
Of course, there is! When we point to sin, we focus on what Satan has sponsored. But there is more to the American story. We can focus upon what God has accomplished.
There was a reason why German soldiers tried to reach the western edges of Berlin during the last days of WWII. They wanted to surrender to the Americans, not the Russians. Americans were the good guys. Few POWs survived Russian captivity.
America has done many things right. It has stood on the side of righteousness again and again. History is filled with such reports. It is right to be proud of that.
But we would be mistaken if we decided to be proud of ourselves. When we talk about doing what is right, standing for righteousness, we always are pointing to what God has accomplished.
America may have been his instrument, but the glory belongs to him alone.
To the Christian, this is no surprise. Accomplishing righteousness for sinners is the way God rescued us from slavery to Satan. That’s a freedom we celebrate every day.
On this Independence Day we can declare: “Anything great about America, anything good about America, is reason for us to thank the Lord God and glorify his name. We are proud of what he has done for us and through us.”
This is proper pride.
Prayer: Heavenly Father, you have kept your protecting arm over our nation for almost 250 years. You have blessed America by making her a blessing to many. Use us in this work. Continue to give us the privilege of serving you by serving our nation. We are proud to be your servants. Amen.
Written by Rev. Paul Ziemer, WELS National Civilian Chaplain and Liaison to the Military, Belle Plaine, Minnesota.
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