Friday, July 03, 2009

God Bless America?

For the warm-fuzzy 4th of July posts, check here and here.

I'm not going write a post dripping with patriotism, devoting more to my country than to my Lord. Instead I want us to consider brothers and sisters in Christ around the globe. Are we more blessed than they? Does God love us more because we're "proud to be an American"? (ha, now you have that song in your head, don't you?) Paul wrote to the Galatians, "There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus." (Gal 3:28) In today's terms, there is neither Iranian nor American...

Last week my congregation raised over $100,000, a majority of which to be shared with churches we support in the Baltic and Nordic countries. The Baltic countries like Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia are former Warsaw Pact countries and Soviet States. Just a short time ago, they were our enemies. And now we worship along side them, united in Christ. Again I ask, are we more blessed than they? Did God suddenly begin to love them once they rejected communism?

Turning our attention back to our own country, it is easy to see we are far from perfect. We have political deadlocks, economic turmoil, sexual scandals and often those fall under a single headline. Does God love us more just because we Pledge Allegiance to the Flag? The phrase "one nation under God" was added to distinguish our country from "Godless communism". Some have tried to have that phrase removed, just like the words "In God We Trust" on our currency, or "God Bless America" at the end of nearly every political speech. But if that phrase was removed from the Pledge, I don't think I'd recite it. Saying one nation under God puts things in proper order. God comes first. Without that phrase, I'm violating what Jesus taught in the Sermon on the Mount, "Again, you have heard that it was said to the people long ago, 'Do not break your oath, but keep the oaths you have made to the Lord.' But I tell you, Do not swear at all: either by heaven, for it is God's throne; or by the earth, for it is his footstool; or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the Great King. And do not swear by your head, for you cannot make even one hair white or black." (Matthew 5:33-36) Now a 'pledge' isn't an oath, but to my conscience it's too close for comfort.

Would that then make me unpatriotic? A similar dilemma exists in our religious politics. Am I less than a Christian if I vote a certain way? There's a unfortunate trend that's dominated our politics in recent years, and that's a sense of entitlement, of blessing, based on our own sense of righteousness. Take the tragedy of Hurricane Katrina. Was that because New Orleans 'endorsed' homosexuality by allowing a parade? Some would think so. Maybe it was, maybe it wasn't. I'm not about to put a motive behind anything that God does. But does God owe us blessings? Does he owe us curses if we don't abide by his Law? Last I checked, his Covenant was with the Nation of Israel and we're under a New Covenant now in Christ. Our country does not have a covenant with God. We as a people, as a church, his Kingdom on Earth, do. And that Kingdom knows no borders, no flag. I can worship right alongside my enemy because we are one in Christ.

That's not to say that I won't watch fireworks or wave a flag. I will celebrate the 4th, but with the understanding to what kingdom my allegiance ultimately lies.

Referring to Abraham and his descendants, "People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own. If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return. Instead, they were longing for a better country—a heavenly one." (Hebrews 11:14-16a, emphasis added)

No comments: