Please hear me out.
And don’t think you’re hearing me say what I’m not saying.
- I’m not saying I’m against celebrating the birth of our country
- I’m not saying it’s wrong for Christians to self-classify as being American
- I’m not saying the flag shouldn’t be displayed somewhere on your church property
- I’m not saying we shouldn’t cover our heart at the singing of the national anthem
- I’m not saying any display of patriotism is anti-Kingdom
I’m just saying, let our churches preach the crimson flood of Christ’s redemptive work devoid of competition with the red, white and blue of national pride. That’s all.
Put bluntly, let there be no commingling of God’s glory with Old Glory.
(Please say, dear Christian, you at least kinda understand.)
Believe me when I tell you the purpose of this post is not to fire a shot across the bow. These are merely my own reflections about homeland Christianity’s all-too-eager juxtaposition of the Church with American idealism. As such, it comes uncomfortably close to “mixture” for my tastes and that’s why I felt compelled to cobble together a post on the subject. This is a phenomenon that borders on Nadab and Abihu’s “strange fire” concoction that desecrated what was holy to God with the additive of ingredients not endorsed by Yahweh (see Leviticus 10:1-3).
I think it got mildly touched off when social media showed so many American flags taking front and center in many houses of worship. I’m pretty sure it reached a restless discomfort when I stumbled on a video clip of the Declaration of Independence being read to the congregation during morning worship . And though I didn’t see evidence, I’m very certain the Pledge of Allegiance was administered somewhere between the opening prayer and the closing benediction in some Sunday morning assemblies.
Hey, I get it. I, too, love this country. My wife and I joined with friends for a backyard grill-out on the Fourth to celebrate our long-held freedoms and God’s grace shed on she – and I even wore the colors of the flag! I’m not patrio-phobic, if that’s even a word.
But I do have some concerns for my tribe. Let’s call them ‘reflections’ so’s not to appear too over-the-top.
“Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord.”
That’s a psalm. You’ve heard of it before. It’s quoted a lot around the Fourth of July.
As much as we want it to be America, it’s not. The only nation whose God is the Lord is the “holy nation” Peter writes about in his first epistle. America is not the City of God or the City on a Hill or some such. Never has been.
We’ve got this zany impression that America and the Kingdom are one and the same. If you want to get biblical, the United States is one of the governments that will one day be crushed by the Great Rock hewn out of the mountain of Daniel 2:44,45. The Rock being Messiah-King Jesus, the giant image being a composite of all nations of the earth that must give way to the physical Kingdom of God that is coming.
By the same token, that same Rock has had to crush me also!
Indeed, I want His crushing! I need His crushing!
So I’m not bashing America; I’m saying each government, every kingdom, all humanity, whether nation, entity, or individual, must fall under the full weight of King Jesus’ reign and make Him Lord forever.
While Scott Thomas Mitchell can’t enter the Kingdom with his own well-meaning agenda, neither can any people-group or citizenry. Don’t fret about America. God has a people He will bring through in the great crushing: the ones who gladly bow to His authority.
We live in a world of two kingdoms. One is ruled by an evil despot bent on the destruction, humiliation, exploitation and slavery of the masses. We call him the devil.
The other is a glorious Kingdom, ruled by a benevolent King who gives His subjects a share in His reign, grants them family status, offers them life everlasting, and even takes full responsibility for the welfare of they whom He calls His “friends” (John 15:14,15). That Ruler is Jesus.
Whose kingdom would you prefer? Even America can’t measure up to such.
I love America. Wouldn’t have wanted to be born in any other country. I like its colors. I like its laws. I’m partial to its amendments. I like the system of checks and balances in its government. I like its symbol, its anthems and I am a fan of apple pie, albeit in moderation. As a matter of fact, I like pretty much most of the things I’ve listed here…in moderation.
What moderates it?
My citizenship in heaven.
I’m a patriot, yes, but to another country…not of this world. I’m a very happy and content ambassador to this one, believe you me. I thank my benevolent God regularly that I have the joy of living in this great land. But it’s not my true home. So I don’t wrap my whole identity up in the American Dream. I’m partial to living here, just not in planting my roots so deep I forget.
But America is a kingdom of the earth, and all kingdoms of the earth must surrender and give way to the Kingdom of our Christ when He returns visibly and bodily. She was never meant to exist in perpetuity.
Any way you slice it, we’ve got a rugged history. Genocide, slavery, and a little issue we like to call abortion. Since 1973, 58,060,154 pregnancies have been terminated in the land of the free and the home of the brave, sanctioned by your government. The USA also happens to be the world’s top exporter of pornography. Much of the earth’s sex trafficking finds its matrix here too. This America, outside of Divine intervention, will never bow to Jesus and is destined for the winepress. This is the culture that is deeply embedded in the DNA of our country.
And we are called as ambassadors to it, not made from it. Eugene Peterson borrows Paul’s words and says Christians are called out as “a colony of heaven in a country of death.”
This is where we find ourselves.
And this requires the zestiness of salt and the visibility of Light, not the bushel basket of compromise.
Romans 12:2 (Message)
Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.
There’s no solid proof from scripture that America survives to the end as a dominant world power, either economically or influentially. It’s even reasonable to assume otherwise.
America, as scholars of eschatology are quick to point out, is not singularly mentioned in ‘last days’ scripture. You can find Russia, Iran, Syria, Egypt, and certainly Israel, but no United States. I’m not speculating anything more than this: Last Days’ America is most likely not a Shining City on a Hill, or exceptional nation, but probably a median country, a middle-of-the-pack province, certainly not a major player on the world stage.
And guess what?
It’s okay. God reigns. Heaven awaits. Eternity spreads its gossamer wings to carry the people of Christ into endless ages. One day America, in all its “better angel” mark on history’s landscape, yea in its heyday of God’s grace-shedding, will be a distant memory, lost in the mist of another time.
Sure, vote, campaign, go to picnics and light your sparklers. Honor her brave soldiers. I certainly will. Enjoy her harvests and marvel in her beauties, but never forget: this is not our home. It’s our necessary exile. We’re waiting for the Regathering, the Reunion, the Return of Jesus our King!
We need to stop wrapping our confession as “citizens of another country” in the American flag. We are ambassadors of this other nation to America, not the other way around. Do we understand the concept of ambassadorship? Allow this brief synopsis:
An ambassador lives temporarily in one country, but is responsible to another. He or she must represent the message of their leader who is not directly present. An ambassador must also reflect the character of their native country, following its laws and customs that are not necessarily known or even welcome in the host nation – all while respecting the laws and customs of their adopted host.
When Paul called himself – and us – “ambassadors”, he was drawing from the imagery of Roman jurisprudence. The Roman Empire consisted of both ‘senatorial’ and ‘imperial’ provinces. The former were those citizens who completely bought in to the Roman ideal. They were at peace with Rome and happily conducted their affairs beneath its unfurled flag.
Ah, but the imperial provinces were those areas on whom the shadow of Rome fell, but these were a surly lot, ambitious, prone to rebellion, not amenable to the doctrines of the host kingdom at all. These required good-hearted ambassadors to carry the good news of Pax Romana to convince them to tamp down any notion of insurrection and surrender wholly.
I’m a citizen of heaven, sent as an ambassador to America, to promote the peace of my homeland through its King, Jesus the Christ. As His envoy, I am to faithfully stick to the King’s message, values and wishes. As far as it depends on me, I am to be at peace with every man (Romans 12:10), promoting peace (2 Corinthians 5:21), not bashing gays or insulting customs or railing against human authorities, nor am I to be immersed in the culture and planted roots-deep in Babylon.
There you have it. My musings from the Fourth.