Edward Everett Hale wrote a short story entitled, “Man without a Country.” He describes a young man who in a moment of great emotion shouts, “I wish I may never hear of the United States again.” The consequences for the young man are tragic. His wish is granted — he never again sets foot on American soil, nor is anyone allowed to speak to him of his country. The remaining years of his life are filled with regret at the opportunities lost.
If we ignore, or redesign our history to placate the whim of popular sentiment, we will forfeit much. Our nation was founded upon biblical principles by people with a desire to find an opportunity to worship the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, without interference from king or state church.
Our great freedoms and liberties have emerged from a Judeo-Christian worldview, derived from the Bible. Each generation must determine which principles will guide us. This is a tremendous responsibility, for it only requires three generations for an idea to be lost. If we fail to embrace those things that brought us liberty and freedom, and to teach them to the next generation, we are abandoning our responsibilities.
History is often seen as burdensome, dry, or laborious. I disagree. Understanding how God has consistently blessed America — time and again pouring out upon us His grace and mercy — provides hope for the days ahead. We cannot afford to forget our past — good and bad — or we will forfeit the best opportunities of our future
There’s no question that God has blessed our nation. We wouldn’t be the people we are, and we would not have enjoyed the blessings we have had without the grace and the mercy of God being showered upon us.
The problems we face are not political in their origin; they’re not medical or scientific. The root of the problems that we face, the root of what’s causing the anxiety in our streets and the sickness and disease across our nation, begins at a spiritual level. We have thought sitting in church and being polite was the same thing as seeking God. But if we will change, the good news is that we have the power to bring about a different outcome. We don’t need an army. We don’t need Congress to vote. We don’t need an election. If we will humble ourselves, God will move, and our children and our grandchildren will get a different future.
Now, lest we despair (because if you just watch the evening news, or you took the temperature of our current culture, you can be filled with despair), there is significant historical and biblical evidence that cultures can be renewed, even those that have been the most corrupt and the most intractable. But if we’re to restore our world, if we’re to see God’s restoration, we first have to shake off the comfortable notion that Christianity is merely a personal experience — that it’s primarily just about your private life.
Moral clarity does not require an uncritical evaluation of our own history and western ideals. Patriotism is not crude nationalism. Injustice isn’t the sin of shortcomings. They’re certainly a part of the American story, and we have to say so. But a fair and serious study of our own history shows that our nation, without a doubt, has been and continues to be a great force for good in the modern world. You and I are heirs to a precious legacy, but the perpetuation of our nation is not assured.
Pericles said to his fellow Athenians, “Your country has a right to your services in sustaining the glories of her position; these are a common source of pride to you all and you cannot decline the burdens of empire and still expect to share its honors.”
An America that declines its burdens — a nation that is indifferent as to why it fights —will deteriorate, will decline, and ultimately will fail. That’s the prospect we face. I submit that we are standing on a precipice — the dividing line — and the time has come for us to begin to remember our heritage and the sacrifices that have been made for us so that we might enjoy the privileges that we have today. They have not come without cost, and they won’t be extended to the generations who follow us without sacrifice on our part. We cannot, with a clear conscience, gobble up the blessings of God and ignore our responsibilities towards obedience and faithfulness and imagine that those blessings will be extended to those who follow us.
Allen Jackson is senior pastor of World Outreach Church, a congregation of fifteen thousand near Nashville; and he is founder of Allen Jackson Ministries, though which his biblical messages have been broadcast nationally and internationally on multiple platforms. His latest book, “God Bless American Again” from which this was adapted, releases Oct. 1.