Today is July 4th, Independence Day in America.
It will be filled with parades, flags, barbecues, parties and gatherings, watermelons, military tributes, fireworks, and of course…
…lots of “God bless America!“s.
Which has had me thinking and praying about – how much Christians in America adore linking our nation with our God.
So much so that sometimes there is little distinction between being an American and being a Christian. The root of this thought is found in the idea that “America is a Christian nation.”
I think that is not true. And never has been.
The United States of America was founded on the backs of men (many who were indeed professed Christians), war and rebellion. God did not speak or prophesy to George Washington or John Adams or Ben Franklin or Alexander Hamilton or Thomas Jefferson or any of the Founding Fathers and command them to establish a nation.
No, they did that themselves, in their own desire, will and strength, and happened to write “Under God” in the Constitution.
I am thankful for the fact that God’s name was thought enough of to be included, and the heart behind the inclusion.
But I think it has perpetuated for 237 years now, this idea that The United States is ordained by God – and that all of our nation’s current troubles would be instantly solved if our country’s leaders and regulations returned to the base of that ordination.
Further, while the Constitution calls Americans to seek “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness,” Scripture tells us to “pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace.” (2 Timothy 2:22) Sometimes these pursuits are at odds with one another.
This can create a blurred line of patriotism/nationalism and faith in Jesus.
And sometimes results in a worship of country – rather than of God Himself – as if our hope is found in our country and it’s leaders.
Hope is not found in a country, or politics, or military, or laws, or Constitutions, or flags. Hope is not found in men. Hope is not found even in a “Christian society.”
Hope is a Person, and is found in Jesus Christ.
And He said:
But seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness…“ – Matthew 6:33
Jesus never told us to pledge our allegiance to a flag or a country, but to to pledge allegiance to the Kingdom of God.
Does this make it wrong to love America, or pledge allegiance to it’s flag? Of course not. But in so many ways patriotism and nationalism and politics and love of country distract us from this – seeking first His Kingdom.
It is possible to focus so much on “making America great” that we lose sight of making Jesus great – “into all the world,” (Mark 16:15) so that people of “every tribe and language and people and nation” (Revelation 5:9) know Him.
Ask yourself a serious question. If following Jesus meant renouncing your citizenship to the United States, would you do it? As unlikely as that scenario is, I ask it to challenge the thought of how closely related most of our fortunes were of being born in this country; to being “born from above.” (John 3:7)
Our national identity is separate, secondary, or even irrelevant, to our new creation identity in Jesus Christ.
In Christ, we are:
…a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; for you once were not a people, but now you are the people of God; you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.” – 1 Peter 2:9-10
In Christ, we are a chosen, holy, royal people – citizens of the only nation God ever ordained – His Holy Nation. It is to this Kingdom and It’s King that we are to pledge our allegiance. It is this Nation, the Church of Jesus Christ, that is the “city on a hill,” not the United States.
I do not write this because I am anti-America, or the Flag, or the Pledge of Allegiance, or the 4th of July. I love all of those things, the heritage and history and the great country they celebrate. This is all about the heart, as most things are. If the heart is more concerned with a country or its leaders or its symbols and celebrations – than of it’s Lord – then the heart has set its desire on things of the world and not the Kingdom of God.
I am a proud American. But I boast in Jesus.
I love the United States. But I love Jesus most.
I am thankful for our flag. But “the Lord is my Banner.” (Exodus 17:15)
I am grateful for the freedom’s America provides and stands for. But true Freedom is found in submission to Christ.
I appreciate and mourn the sacrifice of so many who stood for freedom. But I celebrate and live out of the Sacrifice of One who bought my Freedom.
Happy Independence Day. Enjoy your 4th of July and all it entails. But as you do:
Seek the Kingdom of God first.
Remember your true citizenship.
Pledge allegiance to Jesus.
Celebrate Freedom in Him.