Every year as I listen to the cracks, pops, and bangs of the fireworks overhead I think about how thankful I am that we live in America. Yet my mind is always drawn to the reality that, at that very moment, somewhere else in the world a family was cowered in their home hearing similar noises. Only the cracks, pops, and bangs they hear are much more lethal. How thankful we are for the security and safety we have in our country, and for the men and women that fight to protect our freedom.
With each year that passes, the 4th of July seems to hold different meanings to different people.
It is a time to reflect upon what it means to be free.
It is a time to reflect upon and remember the men and women who have given their lives for our freedom, as well as pray for those who are serving in our armed forces now.
It is a time to get together with friends and family to celebrate and enjoy ‘each other’.
But as Christ-followers it is also a time when we wonder, how we can truly be ‘patriotic’ when we disagree with many things happening in our nation.
As a citizen of a nation that does not always make the most biblical decisions, can I truly live for Christ AND live as a patriotic America?
I regularly wrestle with my own patriotism.
As we look at how Jesus described the Kingdom of God and we parallel it to the kingdom we are a part of it can be hard to get excited about our nation and the decisions that are made. That is why, as I wrestle with how to live patriotically, I find so much truth in this passage:
Remind the people to be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready to do whatever is good, to slander no one, to be peaceable and considerate, and always to be gentle toward everyone.
At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another. But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life. This is a trustworthy saying. And I want you to stress these things, so that those who have trusted in God may be careful to devote themselves to doing what is good. These things are excellent and profitable for everyone.
But avoid foolish controversies and genealogies and arguments and quarrels about the law, because these are unprofitable and useless. Warn a divisive person once, and then warn them a second time. After that, have nothing to do with them. You may be sure that such people are warped and sinful; they are self-condemned.
Living in the United States of America is notably different than God’s Kingdom; and that is why Paul’s writing is so difficult to wrestle with. Yet the picture he paints is wonderful. As he writes, Paul reminds us of where we fall in the ladder of submission. We are to subject ourselves, in obedience, to our rulers and authorities. However he goes on to share our responsibility towards our fellow citizens and countrymen. We should be willing to do what is good. We shouldn’t be slanderous. We should be peaceable and considerate; always gentle towards everyone.
So what does it mean to be a patriot?
Be submissive and obedient, and ready to do whatever is good. Be humble, and peaceable, and considerate with our neighbors, our communities, our countrymen…the world.
That is difficult to do when everyone comes to the table with different political and social agendas, different temperaments and attitudes, and different goals and objectives.
How do we live peaceably when wars are raging all around?
Earlier this year I sat on a rooftop with a group of friends from the NASCAR community as David Nelson, an NFL player and founder of i’mME, poured into us. David was candidly sharing how he often struggled with the worldly mindset he encountered in NFL locker rooms. He ultimately came upon the realization, “if they knew what I knew, they’d do what I do.”
It sounds like a paraphrase right out of Paul’s letter. At one time, we were ‘there’, living in the brokenness Paul wrote about. But when God appeared He rescued us. If others knew what we knew, they’d do what we do.
But they don’t know what we know. So they don’t do what we do. How then do we respond?
“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus replied: ” ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ Matthew 22:36-39:
We respond, and exhibit our patriotism by ‘loving our neighbors as ourselves’.
Our submission to and prayers for our authority. Our love, respect and interaction with our neighbors. Our thankfulness for and service our men and women in the armed forces. That is our patriotism.
I remain so thankful for our nation as well as the men and women that are stationed around the globe (today, yesterday, and tomorrow) who are defending us.
We CAN be Christian Patriots! Happy 4th of July weekend!