The Word of God tells us that we are to “show honor unto whom honor is due (Romans 13:7)” This is true not only for people; but several times in the Bible, God commands that milestones be erected in order to remember His faithfulness. This happened, for instance, when Joshua led the children of Israel across the Jordan and the Ark of the Covenant passed through the waters on dry ground. Stones of remembrance were to be placed on the banks of the Jordan to remember. Jesus Christ commanded that the Old Testament sign of remembrance, the Passover, should continue but should do so with the truth that He is the Lamb of God who was given for our deliverance from sin and hell.

Clearly in the Bible, signs were important. Symbols are necessary to help us remember. The signs are powerful because they have a power that is capable of recalibrating our lives to the truth that set us free.

Thus it is with the flag of the United States of America. As the Revolutionary War was raging on June 14, 1777, the Continental Congress authorized this sacred symbol to represent the blood, courage and purity that was being put forth to establish this nation. So, 233 years later on this date, we remember our founders knew what we intuitively know: Symbols are outward signs of inward truths.

What is our sign? Our American flag. What is the inward truth of our flag? It is the unwavering commitment to liberty for all citizens at any cost. Indeed, under that sacred sign of our nation, our sons and daughters have given their lives. From Bunker Hill to Kandahar, Americans have fought, bled and died under our flag.

There is controversy in some areas about our flag. Some believe the freedoms offered by the inward truth of that outward symbol give them the right to desecrate her in the name of the liberty she signifies. Some seek to flaunt their freedom by raising another standard above her in our land and in the schools which should be inculcating a new generation to venerate the honorable cause that this American symbol embodies. This kind of dereliction is similar to one desecrating or disregarding the communion elements of the Christian church which signify our salvation from sin through Jesus Christ. If the word holy means anything, if it means “set apart for a sacred use” or for a “special place of reverence,” then surely civic holiness demands that right-thinking Americans decry the usurping of our flag and protest the desecration of that sacred symbol of freedom. Patriotism demands honor to our flag by her citizens. Human decency demands it of others.

Let us who are the beneficiaries of more than two centuries of freedom thank Almighty God for the liberty signified by that red, white and blue; those 50 white stars set against the blue union of courage, representing our republic of 50 free states; those 13 stripes signifying and honoring our 13 colonies which first stood against tyranny and first rose to declare our inalienable rights and our independence as a new nation under God.

Today on Flag Day, let us reflect with solemnity and civic pride that there has been and is today blood, purity and courage of brave Americans behind the red, white and blue.

“Hurrah for the flag of the free.
“May it wave as our standard forever
“The gem of the land and the sea,
“The banner of the right.
“Let despots remember the day
“When our fathers with might endeavor
“Proclaimed as they marched to the fray,
“That by their might and by their right
“It waves forever.” (John Philip Sousa, 1854-1932)

“Pay honor to whom honor is owed” wrote St. Paul. Let us do that today. Let us honor our very ensign of liberty. Remember, I say again, that our symbols are outward signs of inward truths that have stirred brave soldiers, sailors, guardsmen, airmen, ordinary citizens such as farmers, businessmen, homemakers, teachers, ministers and mechanics from sea to shining sea, from dawn to dusk as they labor to employ this freedom to make our lives better. Let us also in this day of cynicism and abusive and intrusive government recall the myriad good long-serving employees of the U.S. government — from senators to postal clerks — who in their own way give their all for freedom’s sake. Thank God for them. Thank God for the flag of the United States of America which waves free over them. If we forget, we are doomed. If we remember, then there are no dark days that can deny the light of liberty behind that flag that always shall shine again. Oh, may it be so.

Note: I salute a great American, Lee Anderson, an elder at First Presbyterian Church of Chattanooga, Tenn., and a great newspaperman of the older and more nobler sort, who taught me never to let patriotic occasions go by without comment. He taught me that Christianity and American liberty are linked by that freedom which is the image of God in man. It is for this freedom that people risk their lives to come to America. Thank you, Lee. You have been and are my hero. My ministry has been enriched by your life and witness. I dedicate this essay to you, Sir.

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