As we celebrate the 241st birthday of the United States of America, and the 131st birthday of the Statue of Liberty, a special gift from the Republic of France, it would be fascinating to hear what Lady Liberty would say to our nation on this historic day. If Lady Liberty could speak to us, I believe that she would remind us that we have always been a nation who has welcomed immigrants to our shores with open arms. In fact, for 131 years she has been shining the light of her torch to the world from New York Harbor as a sign that people from across the globe are welcome in the United States. In addition, she would remind us of what our nation was intended to be by those who founded the United States of America. If Lady Liberty could speak… I think she would remind us of several things:
First, Lady Liberty would remind us that those who founded America intended that we would be a nation dedicated to the glory of God.
The United States was never intended by our founders to be a secularist, humanistic state that was neutral on the topic of God. Lady Liberty would remind us that the first settlement in the United States of America in April of 1607, in Jamestown, Virginia was one that was dedicated to God. In fact, their first act after they landed was to erect a large, wooden cross and hold a prayer meeting of thanksgiving to God for the safe passage across the ocean. Many of the pilgrims who sailed to America on the Mayflower in 1620 were people of deep faith. In fact, the first two universities in the United States of America, Harvard College founded in 1636 and the College of William and Mary founded in 1693, were schools dedicated to training young people for the Christian ministry. In 1836, the French statesman Alexis de Tocqueville visited America in search of the genius and the greatness of our nation. The French Statesman said, “America is great because America is good. America is good because her churches are great. Each week, her pulpits are aflame, and boldly proclaim the word of God. If America ever ceases to be good… she will cease to be great.” Every American should remember these words of de Toqueville every single day!
Second, Lady Liberty would remind us that the United States of America is not God’s chosen nation, nor are we the new Israel.
There is a widespread feeling among people of faith in America that our land has received a special dispensation of God’s grace and that we are a chosen nation as the people of Israel were chosen. But this line of reasoning is seductive, and can lead us to think that we are immune from the judgment of God. This line of reasoning makes us think that we can do what we please. The people of Israel thought the same thing. Solomon thought he was invincible and immune from God’s wrath. Israel thought she was above judgment and would never be defeated. However, in 721 BC Israel fell to the Assyrians, and in 587 BC, Judah fell to Babylon. Every major empire has collapsed from within… from internal decay. People of faith in America are called to remind our nation that we are not above the judgment of God. The people of Israel were blessed by God in order that they might be a blessing to others. Whenever God blesses a people, a nation, or an individual, the purpose is always to bless others… not for our own self glory!
Third, Lady Liberty would remind us that people of faith must oppose injustice and be the moral conscience of the nation.
The Bible is absolutely clear on citizenship. Christians are expected to be exemplary citizens wherever they live and to exercise our right to vote, to be good stewards of the Earth, to care for the poor, and to take stands against injustice and immorality. Christians are called to be the salt of the earth and prevent our nation and our world from decay.
In the 4th century AD, an Asiatic monk named Telemachus spent his life in a remote community of prayer… growing vegetables and working in the kitchen of the monastery. Surprisingly, God called him to Rome, the political center of the world, where he found himself swept along by a crowd heading for the Coliseum. Telemachus was dismayed by what he saw… a gladiatorial contest, where people killed one another for amusement and sport. This little monk was so shocked and angry that he climbed up on the perimeter wall of the Coliseum and shouted, “In the name of Christ… forbear!” The crowd ignored him. Unable to contain himself, Telemachus jumped to the sandy floor of the arena and shouted, “In the name of Christ, forbear!” Soon this monk in his robes became a comic sight and the crowd laughed…but he also became an irritant who was disrupting their sport! People shouted, “Kill him…run him through!” The Gladiators, riding on their horses around the monk, repeatedly stabbed him in the chest…much to the delight of the crowd. As Telemachus was dying, on the floor of the Coliseum he cried out one last time with his dying breath… “In the name of Christ… forbear.” As the blood-stained sand turned crimson, one by one… people left the arena in disgust! History tells us that this was the last gladiatorial contest ever held at the Coliseum. Why? There were other factors at work, of course, but a part of the reason was that one man dared to oppose injustice and stand up for what was moral, right, and true.
Like Telemachus, the Statue of Liberty would remind us that people of faith are to serve as a living reminder of the moral principles for which our nation is called to stand. Will we stand up for the principles on which our nation was founded? And…if not us… who will?