Tomorrow is July 4 and almost all of us will celebrate our nation’s independence with a picnic, a cook-out, and/or some fireworks. I’ll even be at church for a July 4 service which will honor God for our nation’s history, privileges and responsibilities.
Some Christians see patriotism as evidence of faith while others see patriotism almost as a competitor to faith in Jesus. After all, they say, our citizenship is in heaven. Now, I certainly agree that our citizenship is in heaven but does that mean I have no sense of responsibility to my earthly citizenship as well? Do I really demean my faith because I love my country? How does Christianity train me to think about patriotism?
Here are some things my faith does not do in regards to patriotism. My faith doesn’t teach me to disparage other nations or those people from other nations who are living here. To the contrary, I serve a God who calls to Himself people from every tribe, language and nation. Also, my faith doesn’t teach me that my highest allegiance is to my nation. No, my highest allegiance in word, spirit and behavior is to my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. He is King of all Kings and actually His lordship over our lives should make us into the best of citizens – or at least better ones.
Chuck Colson has written about a pastor from Nepal that he regards to be the best model of Christian patriotism that he has ever met. He has served time in Nepalese prison for preaching the Gospel in a land where it is against the law to do so. He explains, “Of course I must obey the Lord and spread His Word.”
That’s what you would expect to hear. But then he goes on to say, “But even though we are persecuted, we who are Christians in Nepal pride ourselves on being the best citizens our king has. We love our country – but we love our God more.” And it’s precisely that careful ordering of God and country that explains how faith and patriotism mix.
Bottom line, I believe there is a place for Christian patriotism and I hope you reignite a little in your spirit during this July 4 holiday. I’m convinced that our Christian faith actually makes us more balanced patriots and I’m personally all for a kind of Christian patriotism marked by prayer, respect for all, courage, compassion, righteousness, and the pursuit of justice.
In closing, I point you to this quote from our first President, George Washington, regarding the importance of patriotism and the even greater importance of Christian character:
“While we are zealously performing the duties of good citizens and soldiers, we certainly ought not to be inattentive to the higher duties of religion. To the distinguished character of Patriot, it should be our highest glory to add the more distinguished character of Christian.” –The Writings of Washington, pp. 342-343.