Leading up to July 4th and beyond, social and traditional media were filled with cautions to church leaders about what they say or do in honor of America’s independence.
Happy Canada Day, and thanks to all the Canadian pastors who would never think that it’s a good thing to make their nation the focus of a worship service.
— Ed Stetzer (@edstetzer) July 2, 2018
His text was 1 Peter 2:13-17: “Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme, or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good. For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people. Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God. Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor.”
Platt identified two truths from those sentences that contribute to the question of patriotic observances in worship services.
David Platt Truth #1 – We Are Submissive Citizens of a Government
Peter applied this directive to all who govern over us, even the emperors and governors of the “Christless governments” in the disciple’s day.
“This is God’s will,” Pratt pointed out. “From the very start of this passage, the Bible is clear that, as followers of Christ, we are to subject ourselves to human institutions and the authority they have in our lives.”
Pratt sees contained in the passage a belief that “government does not exist for the establishment of religion—any religion, including Christianity. At the same time, government does not exist for the elimination of religion.
That freedom is not global. That is why Pratt also reminded the congregation that the Bible commands us to pray for our persecuted brothers and sisters around the world.
“We miss the point of this week if we bask in our freedom while turning a blind eye and a deaf ear to family—our brothers and sisters around the world—who long for this kind of freedom.”
While Christians are to be submissive, Platt maintains that Peter is not advocating submission to government regardless of what the government says but rather “ultimately we fear our God and His Word.”
David Platt Truth #2 – We Are Free Servants of God
Pointing to 1 Peter 2:16, Platt said Christians are not only submissive citizens of a government, but we are also free servants of God.
“Peter is talking about spiritual freedom,” Platt said. “He’s talking about how Christians have been freed from the power and penalty of sin, and that freedom makes us ‘servants of God.’”
“Because of the death of Christ on the cross and His resurrection from the dead,” Platt continued to explain the idea of a “free servant,” “all those who place their faith in Him are free from the bondage of sin to live the life God has created us to live as servants of Him.”
“We have not gathered today, even during the July 4th week, to celebrate our U.S. citizenship. That’s not what the church does, because that’s not who the church is. The church doesn’t unite around an earthly citizenship; the church unites around a heavenly citizenship. The church is not made up of people who unite together under a particular country’s flag; the church is made up of people who unite together under a particular cross—the cross of Jesus Christ. We have more in common with a Syrian Christian sitting next to us than an American atheist—far more in common, forever.”
Platt said our freedom in Christ should result in a desire to model good lives and show God’s love.
“We use our freedom in Christ to show God’s love. The Word of God is why we honor babies in the womb. The Word of God is why we honor people of different ethnicities. The Word of God is why we honor the poor and oppressed. The Word of God is why we honor immigrants who have made their home in our country. The Word of God is why we honor children and their parents at our borders… The Bible, God in His Word, beckons us to honor our President and our government leaders, in the way we speak about them, in the way we pray for them.”
Platt offered two applications for the passage: “First, let us honor those who give their lives defending religious freedom in our nation. Then secondly, let us give our lives spreading ultimate freedom among all nations.”