Oct 2, 2011
It is a good thing to remember things we celebrate, especially the words and phrases surrounding them, at times of the year not associated with them. And I don’t mean “Christmas in July” used-car sales. Every day of the year we should be astonished anew by the Easter story, the miracle of the Resurrection. Or by the powerful mystery of God’s intervention in the course of the history and in the lives of His children, to become flesh and dwell among us, which deserves better than to be categorized as a theme of Christmas time. The “fact” of it, and the “why” of it, should be cause for daily, not yearly, celebration.
In the secular world, our civic life, the same threat of lassitude exists. We relegate so many observances and speeches about the American Revolution (if noted at all) to the Fourth of July, that we tend to consider the topic covered for the rest of the year. This penchant unplugs the healthy recollection of our heritage’s great audacity, however, and can suck the life out of patriotism.
The Founders did not merely want to be independent of England. It was about more than import duties and having a voice in the British parliament. Christian Patriots caught fire. They realized that America, a land set apart, could be a society set apart too: the world’s first experiment in self-government, a Republic (not a democracy, which is a subject for a thousand posts), and, when we read the documents of the time, a civil society built along biblical principles. Even “deists” – fewer in number than modern textbooks claim – looked to the Bible for blueprints.
Revolution? Jefferson wrote, “The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants.” Significantly, he wrote this after the Constitution had been adopted.
These concepts have spiritual connotations and implications. For instance, the Roman lawyer Tertullian, after his conversion, defended persecuted Christians in Nero’s time, defiantly saying, “We multiply whenever we are mown down by you; the blood of Christians is seed.”
That the American Revolutionaries were largely of the comfortable classes – merchants, traders, lawyers, landowners – is instructive. They had grown prosperous during British rule. They easily could have remained comfortable without rocking the boat. The lower classes, no less freedom-loving, might be seen as having “nothing to lose” by rebellion. Yet patriots of all stripes knew what was at stake. They were willing to lose their comfort, their relative freedoms, indeed their heads, if they lost… or even during the precarious process of winning.
This stark choice was not a hazy implication of their actions. They boldly closed the Declaration of Independence with the famously defiant pledge: “With a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor.”
What Tertullian said of early martyrs, and Jefferson said of citizen patriots, must be the standard of today’s Christians. We must be willing to give all and lose all for the sake of the gospel; to spend and be spent, and to realize that persecution in some degree and at some time will visit us.
Some colonial patriots did lose their homes, businesses, and lives. What did it gain them? The answer is, knowledge of worthy sacrifice for a noble ideal, and liberty for their fellow citizens and descendants. What do Christians gain by “losing all”? That answer is, gaining Heaven.
But then, in one of the Bible’s puzzling points, we occasionally read that the saints who “go before” can gain treasures in Heaven; some will have “crowns.” Do we serve Christ in order to win gifts and prizes in the afterlife? No! This is one of the great truths of the end times – In Revelation 4, verses 4, 10 and 11, we read, “And round about the throne were four and twenty seats: and upon the seats I saw four and twenty elders sitting, clothed in white raiment; and they had on their heads crowns of gold. The four and twenty elders fall down before Him that sat on the throne, and worship Him that liveth for ever and ever, and cast their crowns before the throne, saying, Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honor and power: for Thou hast created all things, and for Thy pleasure they are and were created.”
In other words, we gain all – eternity with Christ – by losing all. And if God graces some souls with “crowns” for having served Him in special ways, we will want immediately to lay them back at His feet!
Truly it takes losing it all, and being willing to lose all, in order to gain everything. That is true in a nation, and it is true in a kingdom – God’s kingdom. Let us appreciate that truth on more days than patriotic holidays, and at more times than in occasional sermons. It is how we should conduct our lives, daily.
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This video features the great Jessy Dixon, gospel singer, songwriter, and preacher, who died this week. The song is “I Have Everything,” precisely to our theme today. His amazing performances will be missed – what a talent he had.
Click: I Have Everything