Abraham Lincoln at the height of the Civil War was asked if he thought the Lord was on his side. Lincoln responded, "My concern is not whether God is on our side, but whether we are on God's side."
God’s blessing of America, like many things God does, is a partnership arrangement.
For those who love our country and all for which it stands, when called to pledge our allegiance – we stand, we remove our hats, we silence our conversation. We place our hands over our hearts and we promise yet again our loyalty – as we should – to the essential intangible qualities of a free land entrusted to our care by God Almighty.
Regardless of the polarizing strains of identity politics that some promote, the vast majority of Americans still hold to the reality that we are "One Nation Under God," and that, as our Declaration of Independence states, we are "...endowed by our Creator with certain unalienable Rights... among them, Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."
A minute or two with the headlines of any newspaper, or the first two minutes of any news channel, are enough to tell us that we need something beyond ourselves to help us. Whatever we are doing on our own, is doing little, if anything to stem the tide of cultural divisiveness, racial disharmony, pervasive political corruption and unceasing violence. We need something beyond ourselves – to help us, to save us – to bless us.
Yes, God’s blessings are always initiated with God Himself, but all the great stories of faith offer a deep truth – that much of what God does – is done not just "for" those made in God’s image, but "with" them – alongside them. Abraham, the Father of Hebrews, Christians and Muslims – was promised by God an inheritance, but in order to claim it, he would have to set himself on God’s path – trusting and believing, by faith, that holding God’s hand, he would ultimately receive that promise.
What, today, might help us in that partnership with God?
First, remember. "Remember" the price paid for your freedom – from the Alamo to Gettysburg, from Anzio to Korea, Vietnam, the Persian Gulf, Afghanistan and Iraq. Remember, too, those who responded to terrorist attacks within our own borders. It is impossible to really take in the sacrifice of life, limb and loved ones for the cause of freedom, but it is not impossible to be eternally grateful.
Have you ever visited Omaha Beach in Normandy? A beach that only 79 years ago was soaked in the blood of allied soldiers who paved the way, not just for a free Europe, but a free world – and a scene that absolutely would never have been if the launch of D-Day had not turned the tide of that horrible war.
As you gaze upon over 9,000 graves of Americans buried just above that same beach, no words fit what only the heart could feel – humility and gratitude.
Around our world, we see the birth pains of nations hoping and praying for what we as Americans have had for well over 200 years. Remember the price that has been paid. And remember a price that high is also a treasure impossible to value – except through the gift of grateful remembrance. So – remember.
Second, wait. To "wait" upon the Lord means what it says – in all things we engage with God, listen to God’s voice. The prophet Isaiah reminds us, "...they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint..." (Isaiah 40:31).
Two years into his presidency, George Herbert Walker Bush confessed in a speech, "I have been honored to serve as president of this great nation for two years now and believe more than ever that one cannot be America's president without trust in God. I cannot imagine a world, a life, without the presence of the One through whom all things are possible."
Wait upon God and the complex will become simple; the unknown will be revealed, the truth will, as the Bible tells us, make itself known. And when it does, it will set you free from your agenda, to serve God and His. So – wait... and wait.
Lastly, "Be." This may seem like a no-brainer – but in our partnership with God, we are asked not just to believe the faith, but to "be" the faith.
Jesus said, "You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy,’ But I say to you, ‘Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you... For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? That’s easy to do ... No… love your neighbor... love your enemy... pray for your neighbor... pray for your enemy."
This is what many call one of the "hard sayings of Jesus," but there it is. Are you not exhausted by a polarized world where the culture warriors think the truth can only be found in the extremes, the ends of the spectrum? Is there not a better way?
All the great faiths stand together on this one – the best way to partner with God and be active agents of God’s work in the world is to love everyone – love those who you like to love – and more importantly – love those who are the exact opposite of you.
That means if you are a Republican – you need to love Democrats with whom you disagree... and if you are a Democrat, you need to love Republicans with whom you disagree. And if you are something else – well, you find a way to love them all.
I am often reminded when worshiping, that those who bear the image of God in their being, should not mirror the image of the world. As the Apostle Paul wrote in his letter to the Romans, "Do not conform ...to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind..." (12:2). The medicine for the world in which we live is always a mind that knows the greatest virtue is love.
Remind yourself to "be" the person God calls on you to be – which would mean doing the most god-like thing you can do – loving all you encounter. Loving does not mean agreeing, and it certainly does not mean endorsing things inconsistent with the virtues of our great faith traditions; but it does mean loving – even, perhaps especially – those who hate us. It is not the way of the world, but it is God’s way.
We are at our best when we remember that call of John F. Kennedy so many years ago, "Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country." The best service we can render our nation is to love her, love her values, cherish our freedom, and love all those within her borders, as well as those who seek to enjoy the liberties we share. Loving service -- not selfishness – is an essential building block in the human who seeks to live out the Christian life.
Etched on the great Liberty Bell, which made its way to the colonies from the London Foundry of Lester and Pack in 1752, is a portion of Leviticus, 25:10, "Proclaim LIBERTY throughout all the land unto all the inhabitants thereof." By 1776, the bell would symbolize freedom from tyranny – freedom to be a nation unto ourselves.
Every day, we must – not just with our hearts and hopes, but with our lips and our actions – "Proclaim Liberty." How can you and I do that? Be the creatures of God that God created us to be. Together, with God and with one another, we can bring that hope to the times in which we live and pave the way for the blessings God seeks to bestow on all of us.
From the written works of Rev. Dr. Russell Levenson, Jr.