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The year is 1976 – the 200th birthday of the United States. Many people from all across the country will be celebrating the Bicentennial. But a serious question come to mind – How should Christians, people of God, celebrate the Bicentennial?

Before going any further, the matter of patriotism should be explained. What is true patriotism? How must we as Christians exercise that patriotism?

Webster’s dictionary defines a patriot as “one who loves his country and zealously supports its authority and interests.” God has placed us in this land and the magistrate that stands in authority over us receives its authority from God. We maintain the principle that all authority is from God. We recognize no authority except that which comes from God. This is based on the Scripture text found in Romans 13:1,2 and 5: “Let every soul be subject to the higher power. For there is no power but God: the powers that be are ordained of God. Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation… Wherefore ye must needs be subject, not only for wrath, but also for conscience sake.”

When we speak of our country, we do so as believers, as Christians in the midst of this present world. We can never forget the fact that our spiritual citizenship is in heaven. We are written into the records of God by His sovereign election. our home is in heaven. We are new creatures, citizens of the kingdom of heaven, which can only mean that we are strangers in the midst of this present world. At the same time, we are friend-servants of God. We are to love and serve Him in the office of believers in our personal lives, in our family life, in our church life, and also as citizens of our earthly fatherland.

When we speak of patriotism as love for our country, we speak as spiritual citizens of the kingdom of heaven. We are not devoted to our country with a devotion that resembles idol worship. Nor does that devotion resemble an offensive display of our own selfish interests. We are motivated by the love of God. For God’s sake we love our parents, our church, our neighbor, and our country.

Patriotism is based on proper citizenship. There can be no patriotism without respect for those in authority over us. The fifth commandment teaches us, “honor your father and mother, that your days may be long in the land that the Lord thy God giveth thee.” This must be stressed, especially in a time of disrespect for all authority. Think of all the campaigning that is done before each election .One candidate tries to outdo the other in all kinds of promises. They seek their won self-interest, or maybe the success of their party without any consideration for the law or the Word of God. Yet we must respect them for God’s sake. Calvin makes the remark in his Institutes, that we must obey all “who possess the sovereignty, even though they perform none of the duties of their function.” That is strong in saying that we respect those in authority only for God’s sake, even if they do not carry out their obligation, and we submit ourselves to them and obey them for the reason that God has placed them over us. We must apply the fifth commandment to every phase of our lives. Children must obey their parents in the Lord, servants must obey their masters in singleness of heart as unto Christ; every soul must be subject to the higher powers, for the powers are ordained of God.

We also can speak of allegiance. Only a sincere Christian can show proper allegiance to his country. His allegiance is not to the country as such, but to his God. If he leaves his country to visit some foreign land, it is only proper that he should give an oath of allegiance, promising to be faithful to his country. The same applies during times of war. Even though a foreign enemy invades the land, we would be compelled to submit and show fidelity, for God’s sake.

A few words can be said about seeking the welfare of our country. This topic has aroused interest in the church from time to time. Two positions are often taken on the subject.

First of all, there are those who would stress that it is the duty of the Christian to exert his influence upon politics, and therefore to be active in the realm of politics. It is argued that Christ is Lord over all and that His Lordship should also become evident. Therefore, it is the duty of the Christian citizen to gain the world for Christ. A Christian political party is wanted – Christian mayors, senators, representatives and presidents. The whole world must be won for Christ.

Secondly, there are, both in the Netherlands and in our own country, those who raise strong objection to this view. They maintain that it is the calling of the believer to “seek first the kingdom of heaven and its righteousness,” trusting that all other things will be added unto us. Christ is King of all His Church and only for the sake of His Church is He Lord over all. Our ambition must not be “to win the world for Christ,” but rather to live our lives opposed to the world of wickedness, and realize that the kingdom of heaven is at hand.

A believer must be and is the salt of the earth by his life in the midst of the world. He does the will of His heavenly Father in obedience to God. He sets His heart on the kingdom of heaven. Like Daniel did in Babylon, he prays three times a day for deliverance.

In conclusion, “How Should Christians Celebrate the Bicentennial?” Respect those in authority over us, show allegiance to our country at all times in love to God; seek the welfare of our country as children of God in the midst of this present world. We must always be men and women of God, fulfilling our office of believers in the midst of this present world, as those who are to give account of all that we do before the face of our God.

The 1975 Young People’s Convention is now history. In the minds of many, it was the most fun-filled as well as spiritually-filled ever planned. “God’s Covenant Faithfulness,” the theme of the convention, is very appropriate in that God has graciously given us the time and place to meet as Covenant Young People and to commemorate the 50th Anniversary of our churches.

A pre-convention singspiration was held in First Church Sunday night (Aug. 3). Many people from our western churches were in Grand Rapids which helped fill the church to capacity.

On Monday afternoon, registration took place at Calvin College. After supper, the convention picture was taken in the fieldhouse and the remainder of the night was enjoyed with swimming, volleyball, and basketball. Many were glad to hit the sack at curfew time, but a select number of boys, as well as girls, had plenty of energy left to fill the outside air with boisterous communications and keep the chaperones on their feet.

Tuesday morning, our spirits were dimmed by the sight of rain outside our dorms. After breakfast, lively discussion groups on “Personal Devotions and Proper Bible Study,” and a business meeting, buses left for North Shore Park on Lake Michigan. Upon arrival, the sun was shining and a hearty dinner had been prepared for us. Soon the beach was filled with sunbathers and excited swimmers. Back on the campus, after supper, a mass meeting was planned. Prof. H. C. Hoeksema spoke on “God’s Covenant Faithfulness – Its Idea”. Gym activities filled the rest of the night.

Words fail me to describe all the events and activities that took place on Wednesday. All the conventioneers, after breakfast and discussion groups on “Dating Practices and Marriage,” gathered with Protestant Reformed people from all parts of the United States at Douglas Walker Park in Byron Center, Michigan to commemorate the 50th Anniversary of our Protestant Reformed Churches. By God’s will, people as far west as Redlands, California; as far east as Prospect Park, New Jersey; as far north as Edmonton, Canada; and as far south as Houston, Texas came to the park. Miscellaneous games were played in the afternoon. Rev. C. Hanko spoke on “recollections of the Past.” A delicious chicken supper was catered in from a nearby town. Rev. D. Engelsma then spoke on “God’s Covenant Faithfulness – The Historical Realization.” After singing a few songs, it was announced that over 1800 people had gathered, having hashed over memories with friends and relatives. Many knew they wouldn’t see each other for a long time, but were happy and thankful to God for making this day a huge success.

Thursday morning after breakfast, discussion groups were held on “Common Grace”. A business meeting to elect new federation board members followed. After dinner, East and West met in the traditional softball game. The banquet, with its theme “Our Dutch Heritage,” was also a big success. The menu included baked ham and roast beef. Following the banquet, in the Fine Arts Auditorium, Prof. H. Hanko spoke on “God’s Covenant Faithfulness – Its Future Manifestation.” Refreshments were served to everyone afterwards.

Friday morning, we ate our last meal on campus, and everybody packed up, ready to head home. Some said goodbye for only a few days while others knew they wouldn’t see their friends until next year.

Finally, I, along with all the other conventioneers, would like to again express a word of thanks to Rev. Van Baren and Rev. Van Overloop, Mr. Ophoff, Mr. Schipper and their wives, to the Federation Board, the Steering Committee, the host societies, and above all to our Covenant God for letting this convention take place. The Lord willing, we’ll see you next year in South Holland, Illinois.

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