The Bible repeatedly commands us to remember the past:
“Remember the days of old; consider the years long past.”
“Remember the former things of old.”
“But call to remembrance the former days.”
Oftentimes, holidays exist to be times of remembrance—days such as Christmas, Easter, and the Fourth of July. Yet somehow in today’s heated political environment, it seems that the primary remembering being done (or at least the primary remembering that is capturing the national spotlight) is that of remembering past sins rather than our triumph over them.
Ex-NFL player Colin Kaepernick made headlines recently when he told Nike to pull its Air Max 1 Quick Strike Fourth of July sneaker. He believes the colonial flag used on the shoes is offensive because it was flown when slavery was legal.
If Kaepernick’s measurement of historical expungement is to be the new standard, then anything used before the Civil War must be excluded, because it was used when “slavery was legal.” This would mean that the Bible, the Declaration of Independence, the Seneca Falls Woman’s Rights Convention, and the Emancipation Proclamation must be excluded because they were used when “slavery was legal.”
Imagine what would occur if we applied a similar standard in other areas. For example, what if we cut from the Bible the story of everyone who sinned? We would have no examples of redemption. The only Biblical account remaining would be that of Jesus’ life (minus the content of bickering disciples, plotting Pharisees, violent Romans, and betraying Judases). What is the meaning of the Cross without the understanding of our sins for which the Savior died?
Behind every truly great story or inspirational person is a background of conflict or suffering—which makes the story of overcoming that much more worth the telling. We have to remember enough of the evil to appreciate the good.
Flag of Freedom
Many seem to forget that the American flag was not the flag of slavery; it was the flag of the Union that abolished slavery. Regardless of the era in which it was flown, our flag has always represented the spirit of liberty and freedom. As acknowledged in the National Anthem:
“Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just,
And this be our motto, “In God is our trust.”
And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave!”
Our Lens of History
Human civilization will continue to progress (or regress) depending on our attitude to history. If we ignore the past, then centuries from now even our presence today will be obliterated from the public record. After all, there are more than 40 million in slavery right now (far more than at any time in world history). Since this is the most slavery-ridden time in world history, what if future generations use today’s standard and refuse to mention anything from our generation?
As God’s children living in this country, we may look with pride and gratitude on our flag, which has flown over battlefields at home and abroad as brave men and women for centuries believed our own inalienable rights, and those of others (including black Americans in slavery, for whom hundreds of thousands gave their lives) were worth dying for.
In the words of colonial flag-maker Betsy Ross,
“Our hearts aching, our prayers praying, our flags waving, never forget.”