“O’er the Land of the Free...Home of the Brave”
The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. (John 10:10)
When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” (John 8:7)
While standing or saluting during the singing of the Star Spangled Banner before a sports event, fans understand that the game will not start until the last lyrics are sung, “O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave.”
Following an attack on our nation in 1814 by the British, Francis Scott Key wrote the lyrics to the Star Spangled Banner with joy and admiration after an all night bombardment when he discovered in the morning that the flag of our great nation was still standing at Fort McHenry, assuring our nation had not been overcome.
Today, when Americans stand and sing our national anthem, are we merely following a tradition or truly understanding that since its birth, our nation has continually evolved to embody the words, “Land of the Free” and “Home of the Brave?” Liberation and courage are not mutually exclusive but forever intertwined.
United States history provides the best illustrations of our evolution. For example, in the creation of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, freedom and rights were at the forefront, and our nation has continually expanded those freedoms by the exploits of the brave.
From the late 18th century to the present, new freedoms have emerged in a plethora of ways such as freedom from British tyranny, freedom from slavery, and the movement toward equal rights for all persons regardless of race, gender, religion, or sexual orientation.
Each battle that has been fought and won, whether inside our national borders or beyond, has allowed us to continue as the Land of the Free and Home of the Brave. We must never forget that each freedom came with a price that the brave were willing to pay with their lives. They refused to follow the status quo, and simply said “No.”
Our nation began with a few brave colonists who said no to Britain's tyrannical rule for the sake of freedom. Later, brave abolitionists would stand and say no to chattel slavery. Decades after that, brave civil rights leaders stood to say no to discrimination based on race. Women’s rights activists stood to say no and break down oppression and inequality based on gender bias. Most recently, human rights activist have advocated for the LBGT community who has said no to sexual orientation discrimination. While the battles for equality process onward, we must admit that some major battles have been won, and we as Americans enjoy new freedoms.
As a follower of Christ and an American, I must comment on the most recent convoluted and conflated issue around respect for our national anthem at sports events.
Jesus is recorded in John chapter 10 saying these words, “the enemy comes to still kill and destroy, but I have come that you may have life and have it abundantly.” John:10-10
The enemy seeks to destroy our great nation, as well as steal our joy by creating division among people.
Are we seriously going to toss out our joy of football because someone kneels or refuses to stand? Have we explored the facts or run with a sound bite? Did the first person who knelt do so to oppose veterans or was it a personal protest about the unjust and too frequent killing of African Americans by police?
Are the people who enjoy freedom now refusing freedom of expression to others? Having the option of standing or not standing is one of the many benefits of enjoying this freedom that brave men and women, both civilian and military, gave their lives for. Are issues always either right or wrong or is there middle ground?
A few weeks ago, I shared a sermon concerning the woman caught in adultery and the crowd that was ready to stone the woman for her inappropriate actions. The crowd looked to Jesus for instruction…to stone or not to stone. Our Lord simply asked the crowd to take some time for introspection, when he said, “He or she that is without sin cast the first stone”. And slowly the crowd dispersed dropping their stones as they left. John 8:3-11
As Americans and followers of Christ, we must live in constant introspection. Those who have been liberated spiritually were afforded this gift not to simply oppress others, but to instead spread our freedom through love and unity. We must not react as the world does in response to twisted words that stir up negative emotions.
We live in America, the Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave, and we should applaud the freedom Christ gives us and applaud the brave who stand (or kneel) and press us to continue to be and remain ….The LAND OF THE FREE AND THE HOME OF THE BRAVE.