Should Your Church Sing Patriotic Songs?
All right, it’s almost the Fourth of July. A great time of celebration in the United States of America for the independence of our country for the founding of our nation. And people all across the country are going to be celebrating the Fourth of July. And on the Sunday, surrounding the Fourth of July, some Christians are going to go to churches where they will sing patriotic songs, and other Christians will go to churches where they do not sing patriotic songs. If you’re a Christian, who goes to a church that isn’t going to listen to any patriotic music or sing any patriotic songs, it’s probably not because you hate America or you go to a church that doesn’t love the United States. The ones who don’t sing patriotic songs have a theological and a biblical concern. That concern is about the centrality of Christ in worship. Christians who go to churches that don’t sing patriotic songs aren’t required to hate the country; they are not required to disrespect the United States. But what they say is they say corporate worship for Christians on Sunday morning is a special time where more than any other place in the schedule more than any other time in the week, we exalt Jesus Christ, we lift him up, we point to him, and we don’t want to do anything to dilute that. We don’t want to point to people; we don’t want to point to things; we don’t want to point to stuff. We don’t want to point even to the United States of America; we don’t want this to become a patriotic focus of our worship. And so, they don’t do it because those are good things to do. But they need to happen at other times in your life. There are, in fact, other times when those things can happen. They don’t need to happen in the context of Christian worship.
I want to say very clearly, that concern resonates with me. I am concerned about that, too. Listen, I am a Christian. When I was a freshman in high school, I turned from my sins, and I trusted in Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ saved me. Jesus Christ lived a perfect life that I could never live. He died on the cross to pay for my sins, is his blood cleansed me from my sins, Jesus rose from the grave to prove that he was the mighty victor over sin and death, and the devil, and he lives, and he reigns right now. Jesus changed me. Jesus defines me, and Jesus will chart my future course throughout an endless eternity. My life is about Jesus. And more than that, I am a pastor; I’m a minister of the gospel of Jesus Christ. I’m not a representative of the government. I’m not a representative of any political party. I am a Christian minister, which means my whole job is to point the people of God to Jesus Christ. I will fail in my ministry if I don’t point people to Jesus. That’s the one thing I’ve got to do. And so, I never want to do anything, particularly in Sunday worship in the corporate gathering of the saints. I never want to do anything that’s going to point people away from Jesus and to something else. That heart of hey, we need to treat Sunday morning worship in a very different and in very careful way. I resonate with that. And I want to be careful, too. It’s also true that I am the senior pastor at First Baptist Church in Jacksonville, Florida, where we regularly on Sundays like the Fourth of July, on Sundays, like Memorial Day, and places like that. We will regularly sing some songs and listen to some music that falls into the patriotic category. And that’s on purpose. And I want to just tell you, on the podcast this week, three reasons why it’s a good thing to sing some patriotic music in your church and why we do that at First Baptist Church. It doesn’t overwhelm the service. We don’t have services where all the songs are patriotic. We don’t make the focus of our worship even on those special Sundays. We don’t make the focus the country or the flag or independence or any of those things. We make the focus Jesus, we make the focus God and the Bible, and yet we still sing some of the songs and still listen to some of the music.
1. We are Grateful to God
The reason we do that, number one, is because we are grateful to God for this country. We sing a song; it’s not a patriotic song; we sing the song called “Great is Thy Faithfulness.” We sing, “All I have needed, thy hand has provided.” It’s a whole song about the good things that God gives us. It’s a song where we express our gratitude to the Lord. There are other songs where we sing more about more specific areas of gratefulness for the good gifts that the Lord has given us. And so, when we, for example, sing a patriotic song like “God Bless America Land that I Love.” This is a song of gratefulness, of a good gift of America. You can think about America. And you should think about America; you should think of the good things in our country and be grateful to the Lord. If it is a gift to be in this country, then we should express that gratefulness to God, and it’s the opposite of a sin. It actually points to Jesus and His grace that He would give this good gift. And it is not wrong to sing about our gratitude for that good gift.
2. Songs are Prayers to God
The second reason why we have some patriotic music and some of our services at First Baptist Church is because, very often, songs are prayers to God. Some of the songs that you sing in church, if not all of them, are meant to put your heart into an attitude of prayer and appeal to the Lord, where you are with the gathered saints and the congregation and all of the music you are pouring out your heart and a petition to the Lord. This is like that song I just mentioned a moment ago, “God bless America, land that I love, stand beside her and guide her through the night with a light from above.” This is a prayer to the Lord. It is completely appropriate that Christians would get together and sing a song like that and appeal to the Lord for His blessing. It’s not like singing “You’re a Grand Old Flag” or something like that, which is a song that’s fine but is not one we would sing in Christian worship. But “God Bless America” is a song where we appeal to the Lord to deploy his blessings on it, for that matter. If there was a song called God Bless France and God Bless England and God Bless Australia, I would not be scandalized at all, for Christians in those countries to sing a song like that on occasion and ask for the Lord’s blessing on their country. That’s just a good thing to ask the Lord to do.
3. We are Commanded to Give Honor Where it is Due
Finally, thirdly, the Bible commands us to give honor where it is due. In Romans 12, it tells us very clearly that we have a command from the Lord that we’re to do this, and Romans 12 says that we are to “outdo one another in showing honor.” It is a command from the Lord that we are to give honor to people at our church. At First Baptist, we are in a city with military bases and hundreds and thousands of faithful military men and women. There are times in the life of our congregation when we will honor those men and those women, those veterans, for their service. And it is not at all a distraction from Jesus is not at all a distraction from the Bible to do that. When we do that, I’ll stand in front of the congregation and say something like you know what, the Lord Jesus Christ has given us a remarkable gift with men and women who have defended the freedom that we enjoy to be able to have this worship service right now. It’s a gift from God through you. And we are grateful for you. And we’ll ask them to stand so that we can honor them. Not a thing in the world wrong with that. It points to Jesus, it points to the Bible, and it points to good and faithful men who intend to serve the congregation of which they’re a member. So, this can be controversial in some contexts. And I do think we need to be careful; we don’t want to go off the deep end and have patriotic music and patriotic themes overwhelm our services. We need to be careful because not every patriotic song is an appropriate one for Christian worship. But there are some that are, and there are times and seasons when it’s right for Christians to do this, and we can do it and be thankful and point to Jesus at the same time.