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Every year on the Sunday closest to the 4th of July, our worship service turns very patriotic. All of the hymns and worship songs are replaced with patriotic songs like God Bless America, America the Beautiful, and the National Anthem. The choir and whoever is singing a solo that day sings a patriotic song. A color guard marches in with the American flag and we say the Pledge of Allegiance. Sometimes the sermon is even on a patriotic topic. It makes me uncomfortable because I think the worship service should focus on God, not America. What do you think?

Independence Day is one of my favorite holidays. I love the fireworks and picnics, the bands, and watching my favorite musical, Yankee Doodle Dandy.

 

I’m as red, white, and blue, rah rah America as the next guy, but there’s a time and a place for all that, and the Sunday morning worship hour isn’t it. You’re correct. The worship service is exactly that: worship and service. And who are Christians supposed to worship and serve when we go to church? God.

We are to sing to, and about, God. The pastor is to preach the Word of God. We pledge our allegiance in prayer, worship, and confession to God. Our thoughts are to be focused on God. Every element of the worship service – songs, symbols, readings, offerings, prayer, praise, everything – is to draw our attention to God. He is the only One worthy of our worship.

Patriotic songs, the Pledge, and all of those other things can take the focus off God and put it on something lesser. Sometimes God gets pushed aside in favor of what we want to focus on. That’s a very man-centered attitude in the very place and time when everything is supposed to be centered on God.

And really, if you think about the main reason America was founded – freedom of worship – what better way is there to honor our forefathers and celebrate the gift of freedom God has given us than to exercise our First Amendment right to worship God? Certainly, we could use the 4th of July as a reminder to take some time in corporate prayer to express gratitude to God for our country and our liberties and to pray for our country. Scripture tells us to present our requests to God with thanksgiving. We could also dedicate some time to praying for our governmental officials as 1 Timothy 2:1-4 instructs us to do. There’s a biblical, worshipful way to be thankful for the freedoms God has blessed us with and intercede for our country and our governing authorities. And it shouldn’t be limited to one Sunday a year.

But when it comes to patriotic hoopla, we can set aside another time for that and still celebrate with our brothers and sisters in Christ. If your church family wants to celebrate America’s birthday together, that’s great! Have a church-wide cookout on the 4th. Schedule an Independence Day patriotic sing-along or choir pageant. Meet up and head out to the county fireworks show together. Fellowship! Have fun!

But when it’s time to worship, let’s make sure we’re reserving that time for worship of the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. It’s fine to love America, but let’s demonstrate that we love Christ more by not letting anything take His place in His church.

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If you have a question about: a Bible passage, an aspect of theology, a current issue in Christianity, or how to biblically handle a family, life, or church situation, comment below (I’ll hold all questions in queue {unpublished} for a future edition of The Mailbag) or send me an e-mail or private message. If your question is chosen for publication, your anonymity will be protected.

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