This article first appeared in my local newspaper The Sedalia Democrat Friday July 1, 2011. The original article can be found here.
As we contemplate another 4th of July and all that it means, I will be the first to confess to you this “awful” truth: there are many in Christendom who are conflicted about God, country, and patriotism. As believers in Christ, the Bible tells us that we are merely sojourners and not permanent in the world; we are ambassadors, citizens of a heavenly kingdom and not of any national or tribal affiliation. Christians can be found in every country on earth, so to call any one of country or nation “unique” or “special” kind of flies in the face it seems of the scriptural principle of “heavenly citizens in a foreign land.”
Being a American citizen for many Christians is then merely happenstance, the fate of a draw which then some it seems feel eternally guilty for. Most of these folks would as result rail at all of the sins of America as if they can never be redeemed at any time: slavery, segregation, overemphasis on wealth, less inclined toward social justice toward the poor or the immigrant as some primary examples. They tend to gloss over the civil war to free the slaves, the attempt to end segregation, and a social safety net in case all else fails. The truth is that all of these attempts at redress have had (and have) at their core the work of a faithful, dedicated Christian, even whole churches. who believed that something could be done to redress the wrongs of our nation and indeed make them right so that this would be a better place to live. Christians do have a prescription for good living that ultimately points to a greater Truth: Jesus came and died for the sins of the world.
Yet many outside of Christian circles see the actions of faithful believers in the country as suspect. They see that the Christian prescription or right and good living would force Christian morality on them (as if everybody lived in a moral vacuum). Many opinion makers advocate that “religion” has no place in the public square, or even in politics. They too have forgotten that the Christian and Jewish faith is the core of the philosophy of this nation and to excise it would be like doing a self-lobotomy. It is quite obvious to me that something is needed in politics when politicians of all party stripes can’t seem to get it together either in public or their private lives. What our current national malaise should do is force all Christians to their knees imploring that God would heal this land.
A few years ago in The Sedalia Democrat a column admonished the churches because some kept a U.S. flag in worship sanctuaries, calling it “irreligious.” Now our sanctuary at Camp Branch Baptist Church does have the American and Christian flags displayed inside. Do we do so because we are suggesting that country is more important than God as some say? Are we displaying “patriotism” over the Kingdom of God? No, none of these criticisms are true. We display the flags that represent the nations and Christians that live in them. We display the American flag to represent the people of our nation as we pray for them. We display the Christian flag that represents Christians all over the world, reminding us to pray for their well-being in the nations they sojourn in.
While we admit that not everything is great and good in America, we must also acknowledge this truth: of all the nations of the world, we would much rather live here than anywhere else. We thank the Lord for His blessings of peace in this land, and pray for our fellow Americans that they would see their need for Jesus so that He could bring His peace to them.
May God continue to bless America. Have a safe, and wonderful Independence holiday!