by Michael A. Asher
Have you ever paused to consider the meaning of the flag of the United States of America? What does it represent to you? How does seeing the flag make you feel about your country? Our flag is one of, if not the most recognizable, flags in the entire history of the world. Depending upon who you ask, the meaning of the stars and stripes displayed across the American flag can be described in a variety of ways, many of which are very complimentary, but others, not so much.
The flag of the United States goes by different names—Old Glory; The Star-Spangled Banner; The Red, White, and Blue; and The Stars and Stripes. It was the inspiration for Francis Scott Key to pen our country’s national anthem. The stripes represent the original thirteen colonies and the stars represent the fifty states of the Union. The colors of the flag are symbolic as well; red symbolizes hardness and valor, white symbolizes purity and innocence, and blue represents vigilance, perseverance, and justice.
An Enduring Symbol
Our country’s flag is our banner. The whole point of a banner is to be seen—unmistakable and undeniable. Banners are created for those who are inspired to raise them, salute them, and honor them. They are presented in acts of celebration, remembrance, or announcement. They represent the symbol for soldiers to be honored when returning from war or for those who have sacrificed everything in defense of the country they have fought for. Personally, I have always felt an overwhelming sense of pride whenever I see the flag of the United States waving in the breeze.
“Our flag doesn’t fly because the wind moves it. It flies with the last breath of every fallen soldier who protected it.”—Author unknown
Flag Day, which we will observe as a nation next Monday, commemorates the adoption of the American flag by resolution of the Continental Congress on June 14, 1777. While celebrated, Flag Day wasn’t officially recognized until President Harry Truman signed it into law in 1949. The American flag has been an enduring symbol of our country’s ideals since its early days.
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” (From the Preamble to the Declaration of Independence in Congress, July 4, 1776.)
The apostle Peter reminds us to “Live as free people, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as God’s slaves” (1 Peter 2:16, NIV).
A Flag of Freedom
There is a famous poem entitled, “I Am the American Flag,” that is displayed on the American Veteran’s Memorial in Washington D.C. Here are a few excerpts from that poem:
“I was there when my nation was born. . . . I stand for peace, honor, truth and justice. I stand for freedom. I have earned the right to speak. The right paid for my freedom of speech is a price few remember or can comprehend. I have fought every American battle of every war since 1776 . . . and when veterans died for me, I wrapped them in my love and draped my honor over their caskets. . . . Yes, I am the American Flag. I have been burned, torn and trampled on the streets of countries I have helped set free. I have been stained, spit upon and defiled by my detractors. Yet, there is no place on the face of this earth that knows greater freedom than my country. Be humble and be proud of our greatness. My glory is the freedom that I give to every man, woman and child living in America. I am the world’s beacon of hope and liberty. Yes, I am the American Flag. I am the flag of freedom.”
Our nation was formed when patriots originally fought for our freedom against a tyrannical government. Our Declaration of Independence and our Constitution explicitly state the importance of freedom to the individual. The soldiers who have defended this nation have come from every race, every religion, every creed; they have represented every state, tribe, and territory; they have been comprised of both men and women; they have supported different political parties. Those who gave their lives with the ultimate sacrifice, regardless of the differences they had with each other, stood for the common defense of the nation they served. Every soldier who perished or was wounded in battle has bled the same red blood as every other soldier. The U.S. flag displayed on the battlefields throughout history has been our genuine symbol of freedom to rally around for over two hundred and forty-five years.
“Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for his friends” (John 15:13, NIV).
Let Freedom Ring
What does freedom mean to you? How often do you count living in a free country as a blessing? Do you take your freedom for granted? Have you ever considered the alternatives to freedom?
“We the People of the United States, in order to form a more perfect Union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.” (From the Preamble of the United States Constitution signed September 17, 1787.)
The establishment of our country, the United States of America, as a constitutional republic (not, a democracy, as many often claim) required many patriots to sacrifice their lives in order to establish the freedoms we enjoy today. If Almighty God did not want this nation to be established, it never would have happened. Their sacrifices were for a truly worthy cause—the founding of a nation that would become the freest nation on earth. None of these essential rights and freedoms should ever be taken for granted, because they can be stripped away from us if we are not careful. When you rise to honor the flag of the nation that values freedom in such ways, you should stand proudly.
As followers of Christ, the Lord admonishes us to live as free people, to choose between the world’s system of bondage or Christ’s system of freedom.
“Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind” (Romans 12:2, NIV).
“You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love. For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself’” (Galatians 5:13, 14, NIV).
In the book of Exodus, the very presence of God was with Israel in all its battles. The great general, the Lord himself, was with them. One of the names God is known by in Scripture is Jehovah Nissi, or “the Lord is my banner.” As long as the Lord is your banner by placing him at the forefront of your nation, the flag waved in honor of that nation will be shielded by God’s grace. Our nation has been blessed from its original founding with God at its center. May we as a people never forget that freedom comes only from the Lord.
“Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom” (2 Corinthians 3:17, NIV).
May God always bless the United States of America; long may its flag wave free.
Michael A. Asher is a financial controller who has nourished a lifelong love of the Bible by sharing God’s Word through creative writing.