Early next year, a case will come before the U.S. Supreme Court which could render the words "under God" of the Pledge of Allegiance unconstitutional. After a federal court agreed with the atheist who filed the case, an uproar was heard across this land. In the immediate aftermath, many citizens and elected officials made a special effort to stress those very words when reciting the pledge. Justice Antonin Scalia, the out-spoken conservative jurist, will not participate in the decision because he has already made public state-ments about the case. That removes "under God's" greatest sup-porter from the equation, making the outcome anything but certain.
The pledge begins, "I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands..." The following elements describe that Republic:
One Nation under God. An important element to the founding fathers was State sovereignty. Nevertheless, the individual, sovereign States of this land are combined to form one country: The United States of America. This is the meaning behind the words "E Pluribus Unum" found on the Great Seal: Of Many - One.
The words "under God" were not in the original pledge, written by Baptist minister Francis Bellamy in August of 1892. They were added by Congress in 1954, typifying the American Cold-War mentality in the struggle against Godless Communism. However, the idea was not new in the 50s, but was one of the earliest truths embraced by those who came to the New World. This was evi-denced in 1639 in the Funda-mental Orders of Connecticut, "The Word of God requires that to maintain the peace and union of such people, there should be an orderly and decent govern-ment established according to God." From this nation's earliest beginnings, it was accepted as fact that if we were to be "one nation," we would of necessity be "under God."
Indivisible. Patrick Henry is a patriot best known for his quote, "Give me liberty or give me death." In another quote, however, he expressed what it was that would guarantee freedom (and therefore unity) in America. He said, "It cannot be emphasized too strongly or too often that this great nation was founded, not by religionists, but by Christians; not on religions, but on the gospel of Jesus Christ. For this very reason peoples of other faiths have been afforded asylum, prosperity, and freedom of worship here." This truth is rejected by many modern Americans as unfounded. We are conditioned to believe that it is "diversity" that has made the United States great: that all religions are equal and merit equal respect.
Any Bible-believing Christian would, of necessity, reject such conditioning. A prevalent theme of the Bible is that God, Jehovah, is the only God, and all other gods are to be refused - for there is none like Him. In due time, He gave His only begotten Son, Jesus, in Whose name alone we have salvation.
Jesus was more than merely a prophet or holy man, as other religions claim to believe. Paul wrote to the Colossians that "by [Jesus] were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him: And he is before all things, and by him all things consist" This is true of the Church, of marriages, of friend-ships, of nations, of nature, of everything.
Today, 50 percent of marriages end in divorce - even among Christians. Many of these are due to "irreconcilable differences." No doubt we have all heard the words, "We grew apart." This ought not to be so. God is calling all believers to greater unity - to the unity of the faith, to the unity of the spirit - how much more the Christian couple, who are more than merely husband and wife, but also brother and sister in Christ.
Likewise in the church. When Christians are focused on God and on His Son, those doctrinal differences which we have yet to see alike are put in their proper perspective, and are rendered secondary to the unity of the Spirit which we keep in the bond of peace. Entire denominations have been formed over issues such as whether one should attend church of Saturday or Sunday; or whether one should eat meat or not; or whether a woman should wear skirts only; or whether the Lord's Supper should be taken with wine or with grape juice.
Yet Paul addressed these issues, relegating them to the realms of minutiae, in Colossians chapter 2 and Romans chapter 4. Though important, they remain secondary issues. As Paul said, "For the kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost. For he that in these things serveth Christ is acceptable to God, and approved of men. Let us therefore follow after the things which make for peace, and things wherewith one may edify another. For meat destroy not the work of God."
So when we focus on such secondary issues, we stray from the pursuit of the unity of the faith. We are exhorted, contrarily, That we speak the truth in love, and grow up into Christ in all things, edifying one another in love (Eph. 4:14-16).
If we cease to be united under God, whether as a family, church, or nation, our union will be forever unstable.
With Liberty and Justice for All. The American republic may have been established to ensure liberty and justice for its citizens, but all believers in the one true God have learned a great truth: "If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed" (John 8:36), and that "Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty" (2 Cor. 3:17). Through the blood of Jesus, the Son of God, we have a liberty far greater than that which can be "guaranteed" by any government or constitution.
Furthermore, the Lord is "the righteous judge" (2 Tim. 4:8), and of Him the psalmist wrote, "Let the floods clap their hands: let the hills be joyful together before the Lord; for he cometh to judge the earth: with righteousness shall he judge the world, and the people with equity" (Ps. 98:8,9).
All Christians should be seeking a country, united under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all. Doubtless, that country is not the United States of America or any other earthly nation. We must, therefore, confess that we are strangers and pilgrims on the earth, declaring plainly that we seek a country. For we desire a better country, that is, an heavenly. Then, God will not be ashamed to be called our God: for he hath prepared for us a city.
And that Holy Nation of God shall not
perish from the earth. AMEN.