Today is Veteran’s Day. And if there were one quintessential song to be the soundtrack for today, it would have to be Lee Greenwood’s “God Bless The USA”. The song came out the year I was born and became a mega-hit, so I grew up hearing it at least three times a year: Memorial Day, The Fourth Of July, and Veteran’s Day. But something about the song confused me…
As a kid who was raised in church, I mistakenly thought the line said, “…and I won’t forget the Man who died and gave that right to me”, in reference to Jesus dying on the cross for our sins. So every time I would hear that song, gratitude would swell in my heart for being both an American AND being a Christian, but at the same time I was utterly confused trying to figure out what Jesus’ death on the cross had to do with America and our military!
As time went on, I eventually figured out the right lyrics to the chorus of the song and my confusion dissipated. However, to this day I still found myself still being profoundly grateful for the same two things every time the song played: being an American and being a Christian. Because I have learned that while Jesus didn’t die to make America the “Land of the Free”, he died to give ALL people true freedom that can’t be taken away by governments or the oppression of men – and that includes every single American (and of course not to mention Christianity’s influence on the founding principles and ideals of our nation!).
But I also came to realize there were actually several men and women who literally did lay down their lives for the sake of our American freedoms. These were the people ole Lee was singing about. And there were still others who may not have died, but still made incredible sacrifices in their vocation, family time, or health. As the old saying goes, “All gave some, and some gave all.” So the older I get the more I’m profoundly grateful for my family, friends and fellow Americans who sacrificed in any way by serving in our military that we might enjoy the freedoms that we do, so many of which are freedoms that God wants us to have: freedom from fear, freedom from want, freedom of religion (1 Timothy 2:1-4).
But as I sit here thinking about America and Jesus and my childhood confusion with Lee Greenwood’s greatest hit, I have realized something else: how incredibly blessed I was to have been mistaken and confused by Lee’s misinterpreted lyrics in the first place. You see, from as early as I can remember, I have always known that Jesus is God’s son and he died for my sins on the cross. It recently dawned on me that this was only possible because of another type of veteran that deserves honor – that of the “Lord’s Army”, the local church. My parents, my Sunday School teachers, my Youth Leaders, my Pastors – all people who sacrificed their time, talents, and treasure to serve as leaders in their local church so that I could know the true freedom I have in Christ. What our veterans have done for our country, these people have done for our churches. And I’m profoundly grateful for both.
So if you have served our country in the military, let me just say: THANK YOU. You have given the gift of freedom to millions of Americans like me. You have done a noble thing that is worthy of honor.
And if you have ever served your local church in any way, let me also say to you: THANK YOU. You have given the greatest gift the people in your church family could ever receive: freedom in Christ.
Sometimes we take for granted how much we owe to other people and the sacrifices they have made so that we can enjoy the freedoms that we do. I don’t ever want to to do that. So please excuse me if the next time Lee Greenwood’s signature song comes on you see my eyes start to sweat a little, because it always reminds me of two of the greatest things I’m most thankful for in this life – being American and being a Christian – and it reminds me of so many people who have sacrificed that I might enjoy the freedoms of such a dual citizenship.