It’s the fourth of July today, and among Christians, there are two extremes that people tend to fall in: hyper-patriotism or national cynicism. Let’s talk about both of these real quick.
Hyper-patriotism is a word I made to describe loving your nation to a fault. Regardless of what we love, we must love with an eye open. Thanks to total depravity, nothing is right with the world or anything we love (outside of God). There are many people who love this nation yet go too far in their acclaim for it. They are blind to the problems and failures of our nation. While this happens in the world all the time, it also happens in the church.
Sadly, there are many churches, mostly in the #oldpaths movement, that equate the kingdom of God with America. It’s a subtle subversion of replacement theology, that America has replaced Israel as God’s chosen people, and that all our wars, desires, and accomplishments are simply part of a divine manifest destiny.
This is not the case. Let me be clear, God holds America in no greater esteem than He does other nations. He will judge America for being an enemy of God just as He will/does for every other nation. He will also pour out mercy on America as people turn and cry out to Him, just like every other nation. God’s plans on the earth are global, not national. We must keep from being too narrow-focused. It must have surprised Israel when God prophesied through Jeremiah that Nebuchadnezzar was His servant (the one who would murder most of Israel).
“It is I who by my great power and my outstretched arm have made the earth, with the men and animals that are on the earth, and I give it to whomever it seems right to me. Now I have given all these lands into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon, my servant, and I have given him also the beasts of the field to serve him. All the nations shall serve him and his son and his grandson, until the time of his own land comes. (Jeremiah 27:5 ESV)
Our theology and our nationalism must be able to grasp that. Even a patriot or a veteran must agree with God when His words come against their own nation.
The American church for a long time has been hyper-patriotic. Recently though, many in the church have gone to the other extreme towards hating, mocking, and being cynical of our nation. This isn’t any better. Paul tells Timothy:
First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus… (1 Timothy 2:1-5 ESV)
The Bible commands us to pray for our government (and therefore our nation). But we can’t pray for our nation and curse it at the same time.
But no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so. (James 3:8-10 ESV)
Too many believers talk bad about America. I’m not talking about where they preach against the sins and evils we are doing and exporting. I’m talking about the name calling, the condemnation of people, instead of praying for them and showing mercy.
Even Christian bloggers, in an attempt to strike down hyper-patriotism in the Church, have gone too far into just mocking our nation and those who love it. Being grateful and thankful ought to be a trait of every Christian. While we should point people to Christ and correct false ideas like hyper-patriotism, we must do it in the spirit of love and gentleness, not sarcasm and cynicism.
So what is the balance? Here are a few tips on how to find a good middle ground, where we are not worshiping America and yet we are being thankful for our nation and its laws and leaders.
Pray for America.
It may sound trite, but in my experience, Christians say a lot of words about America to everyone but God. When we pray, we’re not asking for a theocracy. Rather we pray that our nation would exemplify God just a little bit more. That in all the ways we attempt to steal glory from God, that there would be more and more ways we could make His name louder and greater in the earth.
Preach the gospel.
Preachers: stick to the script. The pulpit is not an endorsement platform. It is not a venting booth or a soapbox for your political thoughts. Your job is to help make known the mysteries of God in the person of Jesus Christ. Your duty is to preach the gospel and call your local congregation to center itself around the Godhead.
Keep one eye open and one eye shut.
As Christians, we must know, understand, and speak against the depravity of people and of nations. We must keep an eye open for this. However, as Christians, we also believe that the Lord is the one who judges nations and revives the cold hearts of its citizens. This means we need to keep one eye closed, in love. Many of us need to learn to trust the Lord in leading our nation while still praying for it.
Thank a veteran.
Nothing helps stir up the correct kind of love and thankfulness for our nation than using our words and actions to thank those who are serving in the military. I would also recommend thanking your governmental leaders, whether in your city, county, state, or nation.
Stop engaging in pointless debates.
Recently, the Supreme Court of the United States made a decision in favor of Hobby Lobby (and Christian-owned/operated business as a whole). There was much celebration on the social media networks, particularly Twitter. While I agree that some people were celebrating too much and going too far in what they think this meant spiritually for our county, the correct response to all of this wasn’t to mock them, or correct them. Again, it’s a pointless debate that won’t stop people from believing what they so adamantly believe. Rather, continue to speak of Christ and the gospel. When decisions like this are made (whether bad or good), we shouldn’t take a day off of preaching the gospel. Rather, we should speak of it all the more. Help people focus more on the eternal than the temporal.