You may have noticed that the United States of America has fallen on some very difficult times these days. It seems that our country is under attack, not primarily from outsiders, but from insiders. As a result of these attacks on our Nation’s history and recent events, patriotism has also fallen on hard times. So, the question on my mind is this: How patriotic should Christians be? Should we be patriotic at all? I don’t pretend to speak for all Christians by any stretch. However, in this post I want to try to speak to this issue of Christian patriotism in light of the biblical realities that are true of all believers.
POTENTIAL PITFALL OF PATRIOTISM AMONG CHRISTIANS
There is at least one potential pitfall that I see with regards to believers expressing our patriotism. I’m sure there are others, but I’ll just focus briefly on this one.
There is the potential of falling into idolatry with regards to our country. As believers we long for God and godly values to be actively represented in the public square because we hold firmly to a set of biblical convictions that, we believe, hold the power to transform the hearts of people to worship the Lord and to honor him in our living. We don’t apologize for these convictions and values. At the same time, we ought to keep in mind that as believers our ultimate allegiance is not with any kingdom of this world, but with King Jesus and his Kingdom, which is coming in its fulness. As Christians we love our country, but our love for God and the coming Kingdom of Christ far exceeds it. Therefore, we worship the Lord and strive for his will for our country, but we must not worship our country. That means our hopes are not in politicians, presidents, the courts or the legislative processes. As citizens we are afforded opportunities to engage in the electoral and legislative processes of our country and we ought to engage in those processes to the glory of God without losing sight of the fact that we hold citizenship in a heavenly country that trumps our citizenship in this one. So, we must be careful to remember that while we love our country in the here-and-now, that love pales in comparison to our love for God and our hope in the country that has been promised to us in the then-and-there.
THE VALUE OF PATRIOTISM AMONG CHRISTIANS
Having pointed out the potential pitfall of patriotism to our country, there are many noble reasons why Christians ought to demonstrate patriotism in our here-and-now citizenship.
1. When kept in proper perspective, our patriotism demonstrates a thankful heart to God who has afforded to us the freedom to openly express our worship of Him. With every passing week that our church gathers to express our worship to the Lord, I am thankful for the freedom that we have in this country to openly meet without government interference. It is truly a gift from God that many of our brothers and sisters in Christ overseas don’t experience.
2. When kept in proper perspective, our patriotism as believers sheds light on a deeper and more significant freedom that is available to every person around the world. The experiment that has been and is known as The United States of America has been an experiment in the individual freedoms that our founding documents have set forth as the inalienable rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. These human freedoms in some measure reflect the availability of a spiritual freedom that can also be a reality for anyone who comes to faith in Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior, having their sins washed away by the sacrifice that Christ made for us. In other words, our physical freedom reminds us of our spiritual freedom that we have through faith in Christ. With every patriotic holiday we celebrate in our Nation, I am reminded and grateful for the men and women who have sacrificed so deeply in serving our country so that we might live as a free people. I am also reminded of the greater sacrifice that Jesus made when he took my place and died for my sins so that I could be spiritually free and live in relationship to God as I was intended to live.
3. When kept in proper perspective, our expressions of patriotism not only make us grateful and cause us to reflect on our spiritual freedoms, but these expressions afford us unique opportunities as citizens of a heavenly country living as free citizens in our here-and-now country. In other words, our citizenship here-and-now affords us unique opportunities to freely express the values and convictions of our heavenly country. In many ways, believers in the United States have more freedom and opportunities to impact our culture with the grace of the gospel and the love of Jesus Christ than believers do in many others nations. Therefore, we should responsibly engage in these unique opportunities by voting and participating in the governmental processes that our constitution affords to us. We must be careful to engage in these processes in a spirit and manner that is worthy of the gospel of Jesus.
For the Christian, all of our expressions of patriotism are rooted in our deeper allegiance and in our greater hope to our God and to his Kingdom. As citizens in our here-and-now country we are simply seeking to live worthy of the gospel of Jesus who is preparing for us a greater Kingdom in the then-and-there. We seek to be salt and light here-and-now in order that we might invite others to join Christ’s Kingdom then-and-there. This is true of all believers holding citizenship in any earthly Nation. So, how patriotic should Christians be? We should express our patriotism as a reflection of thankfulness to God in that we live in a free country where we are afforded the freedom to openly express our love and allegiance to the Lord. We should leverage our liberty in our here-and-now country to point our fellow citizens to a deeper and more lasting liberty in Christ’s then-and-there Kingdom.
Feel free to leave me your thoughts so we can sharpen each other’s thinking about this issue. God bless you!