How Do We View it?
How should the Christian view the celebration of the fourth day of July which we know as “Independence Day”? I know that the Bible has nothing about this matter, thus it seems that we are left to our own thinking to arrive at some conclusion.
Many of us in the United States look forward to the fourth of July each year for it is a major holiday. Banks are closed, the post office is closed, libraries are closed, and other government departments are closed. People flock to places of entertainment, sports events, and parks where they enjoy family time and picnics.
As we know, the day is meant to celebrate the “birthday” of the United States of America. Thus, July 4, 1776, holds great significance to millions of people. Flags are flying, the national anthem is sung, military and political events are scheduled, and fireworks hold the attraction of many citizens. On this special day, the thirteen colonies in the “New World” of North America unilaterally declared their “independence” from the established government of England, headed by King George III. (Some would say the “unreasonable” King George.) This means that on September 3, 1783, the newly formed United States of America and Britain signed a peace treaty in Paris (for France had become a chief benefactor of the colonies).
But how should the Christian—the consistent follower of Jesus our Lord—view this holiday with its many celebrations? There are several things to keep in mind.
The Christian and Independence Day
First, the Christian is part of a heavenly kingdom. Jesus made this clear when He declared to Pilate the Roman governor: “My kingdom is not of this world” (John 18:36a). On the other hand, we receive the impression that Satan has the earthly nations or “the kingdoms of the world” in his grasp (Luke 4:5-6). This may be why the devil is called “the ruler of this world” (John 12:31; 14:30; 16:11) and “the god of this world” (2 Corinthians 4:4). Probably most of our readers are aware of this general principle, probably many of us haven’t thought through the implications of it in regard to such matters as civil and military holidays, paying legitimate taxes, and many other governmental issues.
The Christian (like Paul) may claim earthly citizenship and use it as a blessing or opportunity (cf. Acts 21:39; 22:25-29), but our ultimate citizenship is elsewhere. It is higher and spiritual in nature. As Paul pointed out, “our citizenship is in heaven” (Philippians 3:20). We belong to “a holy nation” and this refers not to an earthly country, but to a heavenly one (1 Peter 2:9). Those readers who happen to be United States citizens are deeply grateful for this privilege and thankfully use it to advance the cause of Christ on earth, we also must continually be aware of our heavenly citizenship in a heavenly country!
Second, we must strongly emphasize God’s command to obey the existing political rulers and submit to laws, regulations, and requirements. Paul explained, “Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God. Therefore whoever resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God; and they who have opposed will receive condemnation upon themselves” (Romans 13:1-2). Among other things, this shows that we must be in subjection to the government, we must not resist governmental authority, we must not oppose the government, and we will receive “condemnation” if we do oppose the government! Let’s remember that Paul was able to say this even when the ruler was the wicked, belligerent, diabolical emperor known as Nero! (Shortly, we’ll also emphasize the exceptions to this strong command to submit to civil government.)
Other scriptures would say the same thing. Paul says that we are to be “subject to rulers, to authorities, to be obedient” (Titus 3:1). Peter also emphasizes, “Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether to a king as the one in authority, or to governors as sent by him for the punishment of evil-doers and the praise of those who do right” (1 Peter 2:13-14; cf. v. 17). These commands were also written under Nero’s evil reign. Thus, whether we are speaking of Nero or Britain’s King George III (at the time of the American revolution), God made it clear that rightful rulers are to be honored (1 Peter 2:17), submitted to (Romans 13:1-2), and obeyed (Titus 3:1). We must not rebel or be insubordinate to them. Significantly, the term “Revolution” comes from the term “revolt.” The colonies “revolted” against the authority of the government.
Third, the Christian is to live a peaceful life, with peaceful attitudes, and peaceful demeanor. We are not only to be at peace with people but are not to take revenge against people (Romans 12:17-21). We are to be “innocent as doves” (Matthew 10:16). We are not to repay another with evil for evil, “but always seek after that which is good for one another and for all people” (1 Thessalonians 5:15). We are to turn the other cheek when someone seeks to hurt us (Matthew 5:38-39). We are to “overcome evil with good” rather than being overcome by evil (Romans 12:21). All of this is contrary to the spirit of war, rebellion, hostility, and cruelty that is part of military warfare. Since this is so, how can we Christians celebrate or participate in anything that would glorify conquest, retaliation, rebelling, or fighting?
Fourth, an overriding principle that must always be kept in mind is that the Christian’s ultimate loyalty and devotion is to God’s kingdom and not man’s kingdom! Jesus declared, “Seek first His [God’s] kingdom and His righteousness” (Matthew 6:33). This would mean that we must obey civil authorities unless the authority forbids what God commands or the authority commands what God forbids! If there is a difference, and the civil government should want us to disobey the supreme law of God and Christ Jesus, we must always choose God! As Peter and the apostles said, “We must obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29; cf. 4:19-20).
For example, if the civil government should require a woman to abort (kill) her child, the Christian woman and mother must refuse to obey the requirement and instead obey God who says that all life is sacred. If the government should require a person to commit fornication, engage in adultery, or swear an oath, the Christian must refuse. On the other hand, if the government should require a parent to teach evolution to his children, or have his children dress in an immodest manner, or send the children to a public humanistic state school, the Christian parent has the right to choose another alternative. If the government should require the Christian to kill an enemy of the state, the Christian must refuse. Or suppose the government should say that we must use “he” or “his” or “him” to refer to a woman who wants to be a man (a transgender woman), the Christian must not lie about this but continue to acknowledge the woman to be what God created her to be (a woman). The list is almost endless. The point is that when we speak of Independence Day, our view of this holiday and every other political and state matter, depends on our prior attitude toward God and His absolute will contained in His Word.
Fifth, we are specifically commanded, “Pay taxes” (Romans 13:6). As Paul put it: “Render to all what is due them: tax to whom tax is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honor to whom honor” (Romans 13:7). This seems to directly relate to such matters as the “Stamp Act” and the “Tea Act” (see the interesting account in World Book Encyclopedia, “Revolutionary War,” p. 272-273; see pp. 270-287). As we read this historical summary (or any other reliable history of the early colonies and the Revolutionary War), we are reminded of how the Christian is to be compliant, innocent, submissive, and obedient. We are not to rebel or revolt or retaliate. How different from the ways of the world, the ways of war, and the ways of rebellion! The Christian dutifully and faithfully pays his taxes of all kinds.
This is sufficient for us to get some idea of a Scriptural view of the American Independence Day. We must remain neutral, loving and submissive and not have an attitude of war or violence. We must be like “sheep” and “doves” in a violent and evil world (Matthew 10:16). People should know us for our gentle, patient, kind, and peaceful spirit in a war-torn world. We know that this civil or political holiday is not mentioned in the Bible, thus we must seek to apply Scriptural principles to the day. Let’s remember that probably 99 percent of people are either totally unconcerned about questions like this or are openly opposed to seeking answers to such questions. It just doesn’t concern the majority of people. They would rather just get lost in the excitement and patriotism of these matters. Obviously, the Christian has an entirely different (and counter-cultural) view of God’s will. Let’s seek the mind of God in this, regardless of the way surrounding society looks at these things. God’s will is what really matters!
The final point worthy of emphasizing is this: Surely God would want the American citizen to have a deep gratitude toward Him for the blessing and privilege of living in this fair land. Probably a number of other nations also offer blessings and benefits to their citizens and for this we are grateful. But America does offer manifold positive blessings and let this be an opportunity to thank God for this privilege. We also know that many people in dozens of countries feel trapped by oppressive laws and tyrannical rulers for they are forbidden to freely speak the truth publicly, worship openly, or carry out Scriptural directives. We are living in a world with countries filled with political corruption, religious persecution, totalitarian rulers, and so much more.
While we may sometimes point out that America is increasingly wicked and sinful, worldly and secularistic, and disobedient to God’s moral requirements, and we may point out that American political leadership has become corrupt (promoting the killing of babies, the promotion of adultery and sodomy and transgenderism, the promotion of secularism and evolution, the promotion of all kinds of worldliness), we also need to acknowledge that this country is unique in the world. Multiple millions of people would love to live in the United States and do all they can to immigrate here, even breaking laws to obtain this privilege. Let us all be mindful of God’s blessings on this country, despite the concerns we have mentioned above. This is surely something that should go through our minds and should occupy our prayers and thanksgivings on July 4th.