If you were to ask me if I’d rather live in any other country in the world, my answer would be No. We have amazing personal freedoms in our nation that many in this world have never seen. We also have a plethora of resources that many people lack. I’ve experienced small bits of life in a third-world country where the average lifespan reaches only into the mid-40s. There is a lot that we have that we take for granted, for which we should be exceedingly grateful.
So, there is a sense of patriotism—the United States has provide many great things for my life.
But if you were to assume that this is a blind patriotism that sees the USofA as God’s greatest gift to man (or even second greatest behind salvation), then you would be wrong. I’ve heard it said that some see the States as Old Testament Israel—God’s blessed land, and others see the States as Babylon—a bastion of sin. I would say that the truth is somewhere in between.
I mean, we have many good things to be thankful for: An undercurrent of liberty, religious freedoms, decent health care, the availability of clean water, technologies that make life better, and the list could go on and on. But we also have our blemishes: Our constitution declared slaves to be only 3/5’s of a person in a population count to determine representatives and delegates; we denied women the right to vote until the 1920s; we systemically treated persons of colors as being inferior to anglos via segregation until the 1950s; and since the 1970s we have murdered millions of children in the womb.
None of these are the marks of a godly nation.
Even today, my experience of life in this country is vastly different than many of my brothers and sisters in Christ, as well as fellow citizens of the States, simply because I am a white male. To say such is not the case is to turn a deaf ear to those who have struggled and suffered injustice because of their ethnicity, gender, or economic background.
It is possible to be a patriotic citizen, thankful for the good of our nation, but also to be a realist and see that nationally we have a great need of repentance and correction. How do we live in that balance? A few thoughts…
One: Let’s celebrate the good but let us not be silent about the flaws. I saw a video of a speech from a man who claims to be an evangelical pastor. He was introducing President Trump and waxed eloquent about what a great man the President is and how he’s God’s chosen man to lead our country. If you read the Bible, being “God’s man” is never about business acumen or policy. It’s always about character.
Some have blinded themselves to the lack of character in the President and other politicians because of a sense of power and policy. Some see it but have chosen to remain silent. This is true about the blemishes in our nation as well. We want to cover our eyes and ears and say, “I see no evil and hear no evil” when it is as plain as day.
That doesn’t mean it’s not there.
We can be thankful for a good supreme court pick. We can celebrate an executive order that ended one avenue of abortion funding. But let’s not fool ourselves to think that makes a person righteous and God’s man. We can be glad for unheralded religious freedoms, but let’s not ignore the systemic injustices that many people feel each day. Let us celebrate and speak out.
Two: Let us pray. This past Sunday our church service was a normal church service. We celebrated our Savior-King and the freedom he offers us from sin. We didn’t emphasize the holiday, but we don’t really emphasize any of the holidays other than Christmas and Resurrection. We did, however, pray for our nation and its leaders. Paul wrote in 1 Timothy 2 that we should do this very thing regularly, with the aim to live peaceful lives and see many saved.
Our leaders need prayer—from our president all the way down to our city council representatives. They need prayer for wisdom. They need prayer for courage in bringing justice to all persons under their charge. They need prayer for salvation. Some of them do love Jesus supremely and seek to serve their constituents in such a way to love them deeply. We need to pray for their continued spiritual growth. Others play lip service, and still others have no love for God at all. We need to pray for them to come to know and follow Jesus.
The best community leaders are those who love Jesus so greatly that they are passionately consumed with loving their neighbors by seeking the best for those in their community—whether that community is local or national. We need to pray for leaders such as these, and we need to pray for God to raise up men and women in the circles of influence of our current leaders who will boldly share the gospel and not stroke their egos for favors.
Three: Let us fight against injustice. Read the Old Testament prophets and you’ll find some common themes. Among them: God is the God of justice and he calls us to strive to correct the oppressions around us. Spiritually, this means that we start with the basic premise that every single person is made in the image of God, though marred by sin, and is either a brother or sister in Christ or a potential brother or sister in Christ. Physically, this means that we start with the basic premise that every single person is worthy of the same basic dignities that we ourselves cherish and demand.
This means that we advocate for the poor, the homeless, and the refugee. This means that we open our ears to the stories of others who have been hurt because of their ethnicity, gender, age, or economic class; then we weep with them and we join in the push for reconciliation to make things right. This means that when we hear our African-American brothers and sisters cry out, “Black lives matter!”, we don’t glibly reply, “All lives matter,” but we realize they are speaking from the pain of experiences that communicate their lives don’t matter as much as ours. Then we work for ways that we can be a part of the solution and healing.
Four: Let us preach. Along with the things to celebrate, there is a lot of pain and brokenness that we must sort through and deal with. We cannot be silent. We cannot sit on our hands. But we also must not take our eyes off the great Solution. Every ounce of brokenness in our nation and world traces its roots back to Genesis 3. Every bad thing is ultimately founded in sin. And God gave us the Solution: His Son who lived as a poor Middle Eastern carpenter, died as the perfect sacrifice for us, and rose as the eternal King of kings.
All of our brokenness traces back to Genesis 3. All of our hope is found in a smelly manger, a bloody cross, and an empty tomb. We work to right whatever wrongs we can and we declare the glories of the One who will right every wrong in the end. Jesus is our hope, our reconciliation, and our peace. Jesus is the one who can break down the walls of enmity. Jesus is the one who perfectly heals our brokenness. So, we declare his glories.