On the evening of September 13, 1814 an American diplomat found himself stuck on a British vessel watching a fierce bombardment of Baltimore’s Fort McHenry. The state of affairs looked grim. As he spent the night detained by the enemy, Francis Scott Key looked out across the waters towards the American fort. But with the dawn of a new day the American cause found strength. The flag still waved above the fort. That morning, on the back of a letter he happened to find in his pocket, Key began to compose a poem that would be finalized within a week. He called it ”The Defense of Fort McHenry.”
Over the space of many years the beloved song would grow in popularity as it was sung in patriotic settings and, in 1862, at a major sporting event. The patriotic tune would also be sung to inaugurate the first World Series game in 1903. Many attempts were made to have it adopted as America’s official national anthem, but that would not happen until March 3, 1931 when President Herbert Hoover made “The Star-Spangled Banner” America’s song.
For Christians of every generation the familiar words penned by Key have special meaning: “the land of the free and the home of the brave.” We are citizens of a heavenly kingdom/nation. “For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ” (Philippians 3.20). As such, our freedom is purchased with the precious blood of Jesus. “Therefore take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood” (Acts 20:28). Our spiritual liberty demands courage, the willingness to stand up for, and suffer if necessary for, the cause of Christ. It requires courage to live faithfully in the kingdom of the saved.