Does the Bible temper the patriotism of Christians (no matter what country they happen to live)? Absolutely. Consider this… The Bible identifies Christians as citizens of heaven, describing us as sojourners,exiles, ambassadors, strangers, and foreigners on this earth.
2 Corinthians 5:20 – Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.
1 Peter 2:11 – Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war againstyour soul.
Ephesians 2:19 – Therefore you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens of the saints and members of God’s household,
Philippians 3:20 – But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ
Hebrews 11:13 – These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth.
While Scripture does not prohibit gratitude for any benefit granted to a Christian based on their earthly citizenship, it scarcely leaves room for a significant sense of pride. Christians from every country have, no doubt, felt a sense of gratitude, and even a measure of pride, either because they have represented their country in battle or due to the freedoms and comforts it affords them. Patriotism might well come from a God-honoring place of loyalty, sacrifice, etc. The temptation many patriotic Christians face, and none more than we Americans on Independence Day, is to inappropriately associate their identity as Americans with their identity as Christians. While we have a sort ofdual citizenship, our love for any country because of a family member’s sacrifice, absolutely pales in comparison to our love of heaven because of all Christ paid.
Despite the fact that many of the founding fathers with nothing more than Deist and Moralists, our constitution was certainly influenced by Biblical principles. But, far more is required than merely taking God’s principles from the Bible for something to be considered Christian; it requires submission to the God of the Bible, Himself and to every one of His Words. That said, America, as “great” as it has been, was never a ‘Nation under God’ or a ‘Christian Country.’ Not really.(Now, stay with me…)
There once was a nation under God and it wasn’t America. It was Israel. In Israel, God’s Law was not simply hung on the wall behind the judges. It was enforced by law. And not just the 10 Commandments (Moral Law), but also a Civil Law that applied to everyone, and a Ceremonial Law that described the duties of the spiritual leaders.
Deuteronomy 6:24-25 – “So the LORD commanded us to observe all these statutes, to fear the LORD our God for our good always and for our survival, as it is today. “It will be righteousness for us if we are careful to observe all this commandment before the LORD our God, just as He commanded us.
God ordained capital punishment to enforced much of His law.
Leviticus 20:10 – “If a man commits adultery with the wife of his neighbor, both the adulterer and the adulteress shall surely be put to death.
A true nation under God has no religious liberty.
Deuteronomy 13:6-10 – “If your brother, the son of your mother, or your son or your daughter or the wife you embrace or your friend who is as your own soul entices you secretly, saying, ‘Let us go and serve other gods,’ … you shall kill him. …You shall stone him to death with stones, because he sought to draw you away from the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.
I suppose it is noble to form a nation on Godly convictions, but His law is either enforced or it is not. God is not threatened by secular or pagan rulers. He knows they will rule His people in civil matters. He also knows that His people may be oppressed and even martyred by Godless governors. But, His law is for His Church and Israel was a model of what He would do in the hearts of His Church. A nation that is truly under God is a theocracy; it is a kingdom, He is the eternal king, and we are His loyal subjects. This is how it will be for eternity when Christ rules for eternity and He will rule His Kingdome with an iron scepter. There will be justice for all, but the only thing we will be free to do is serve Him perfectly. And this, though it violates our personal conscience and our national pride, is a very good and gracious thing, because we make bad rulers. And it is only He who makes us to be good subjects. All the glory and honor belongs to Him.
Isaiah 9:7 – Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore.
Revelation 19:15 – And from His mouth proceeds a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations, and He will rule them with an iron scepter. He treads the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God, the Almighty.
Until then… we are first and foremost, citizens of heaven, sojourners,ambassadors, exiles, strangers, and foreigners on this earth. While we are certainly to honor the “kings” of this world…
Romans 13:1-4 – Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore, whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, for he is God’s servant for your good.
1 Peter 2:17 – Honor all people, love the brotherhood, fear God, honor the king.
…a Christian’s allegiance is reserved for our heavenly King and our heavenly kingdom. We ought to have such strong pride in our Home Country that our patriotism is tempered. No amount of comfort and prosperity should distract us from our eternal prosperity of heaven. No amount of freedom and justice should distract us from our spiritual freedom in Christ. While we can enjoy the good things God gives and allows, we would be wise to not consider every form of luxury, prosperity, and freedom as a “blessing” having come directly from the hand of God. Not every pleasure is a blessing. And, likewise, not every trial is a curse.
As Christians, our value system has changed. We don’t expect easy in this life. We neither expect nor do we want what we deserve. We take great joy in persecution. We consider suffering as sharing in the glory of Christ. We need to remember Christ and the conditions in which His Church began, lest we forget what God’s blessing actually looks like. Jesus was not raised in a prosperous country. Jesus’ “religion” of Judaism was only tolerated by Roman rule. In fact, it would be the Jewish leaders who would crush any other religious expression, including…Christianity. And they did, killing Jesus for blasphemy. Within the first couple hundred years of when Jesus told His church to go to the whole world, there were large portions of time when more were martyred than were converted. Were they blessed? You bet!
1 Peter 4:12 – Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you.
2 Timothy 3:12 – Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted
Romans 6:23 – For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
James 1:2-4 – Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.
1 Peter 4:13 – But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed.
To my fellow American Christians, sure… be patriotic this Fourth of July weekend. Go to Old Navy and get you and your family matching flag shirts. Be grateful. Recognize soldiers, especially those in your family who have served and died to keep our country safe. But, please watch your heart for what might be described as freedom-worship and the love of comfort and material “blessings.” Christian, you have no reason to dress up in your flag so proudly, unless it is because you get to worship with fellow believers without risking being fined or killed… like hundreds of thousands of Christians outside of America. And, respectfully, you have no right to sing so loudly about freedom unless it is because you are able to openly share the gospel with just about anyone, just about anywhere without getting locked up in a stinky, dank prison… like Paul suffered. At some point, the truth of the Bible has to inform how we think about our American freedoms.
And on the Sunday closest to the 4th, let’s leave the American flags at home and celebrate our heavenly citizenship!