The better part of my childhood was spent in South Africa in the late 70s and 80s. I’m a 4th generation African. I grew up in a society plagued by economic hardship and notorious for apartheid – institutionalized racial segregation and oppression. I’m an immigrant in the United States; the 4th country in which my father has held citizenship and my mother’s 3rd. When our family of five arrived in America, my sisters and I were middle schoolers. My parents were unemployed without a job prospect. We had no money. We carried all of our worldly possessions in seven suitcases, but under the Lord’s grace and sovereignty we were in the United States.
Jeremiah 29:4-7 quickly became a source of encouragement to me as I assimilated into my new country. As Christian Americans, spiritual exiles anticipating our true home in the City of God, its two directives can help us celebrate the July 4th holiday.
First, according to vs. 4-6, we can honor the Lord through gratitude for sovereignly guiding our lives. I give thanks to the Lord that I live in a land of genuine opportunity. Our nation is imperfect and there are citizens who suffer, and this reality must not be minimized. However, we live in the country of the world in which the citizens have the greatest opportunity at a better life. It would be impossible to fully describe the opportunities available in this country, but take for example the fact an immigrant can arrive in this country jobless and penniless, and through sheer hard work, build a great life. My parents are proof. Or consider our nation’s very high level of national security – a privilege scores of countries can only dream of. Or the incredibly advanced medical technology available to our citizens. Or the participation we have in selecting our government leaders. Or the regular, peaceful exchange of government leadership. If you live in the United States, there are countless reasons we are blessed that under the sovereignty of God, we get to live out Jeremiah 29:5-6 in these United States.
Secondly, according to vs. 7, we can honor the Lord by “pursuing the well being of the city”. We seek to join the Lord in redeeming our land from the curse of sin. The immediate way I can seek the good of my country is to intercede for her in prayer before God. Similarly, I want to directly contribute to the building of a healthy, local church in my community, for it is a longterm gospel presence for the area residents. Would you take a moment to pray for our country and renew your commitment to your local church?
But, there are additional ways to seek the good of our country: we want to be good neighbors to those who live around us, responsible residents of our cities, and law abiding citizens. As the Lord grants us opportunity to contribute to government or society, we should seek to sow seeds of Godly wisdom and values, for this country will reap what we sow. We must also seek Christ-honoring ways to be part of the solution to suffering in our cities.
So on this July 4th holiday, we honor Christ by reflecting on the abundance of good that is in our nation and remembering that every good and perfect thing comes from above. Then out of our gratitude to the Lord, we intentionally seek the good of our nation. Jesus is Lord.