Today we celebrate Independence Day as a country. Today, assuming the weather in our area cooperates, we celebrate the 238th birthday of the United States of America with fireworks, parades and cook-outs. Many of us will unfurl and fly “Old Glory” as a sign of respect and honor. Most of our community will work red, white and blue into our wardrobe as a show of patriotism. Whether we were born within its borders or gained citizenship through the naturalization process, nearly everyone, in some fashion, will recognize the great blessing God has bestowed upon is to be an American.
There has been a great deal of patriotism displayed over the past few weeks. As The US competed in the World Cup currently underway in Brazil, first with a loss followed by a draw and concluding with two losses, the fervor of our citizenry increased with every match. Newscasters reported that office productivity would be down as the workforce of the nation seemingly took two-hour lunches while the US team played. Televisions, computers and tablets everywhere tuned in to watch America advance. Names like Dempsey, Jones and Bradley and words like striker, keeper and pitch were woven into conversations as we all hoped our country would advance.
As a Christian, a believer in and follower of the Lord Jesus Christ, I recognize that I have dual citizenship: I am a citizen of the United States of America by natural birth and a citizen of the Heavenly Kingdom by spiritual birth. This brings to my mind a question: is my patriotism and love for the US some sort of idolatry? Have I placed the ‘god’ of nationalism before the God of the universe? Does my allegiance to the flag in some way diminish my allegiance to the cross? How can I appreciate the blessing of God in placing me in this country of prosperity and promise while never neglecting to appreciate my love for the giver more than the gift?
“Give to everyone what you owe them: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor.” Romans 13:7 (NIV)
The thirteenth chapter of Romans addresses the church’s relationship with governmental authorities. It teaches that we are to give (among other things) honor to those whom we owe it. The best word-picture I know for ‘honor’ is the image of draping a heavy robe over someone’s shoulders. When we honor someone, we bestow gravitas and endow them with substance. It would seem, since Paul taught as much, that we can swear undivided allegiance to God with also acknowledging the weight of our national identity. We can appreciate the history, opportunity and authority of the United States of America while remaining a citizen of the Kingdom of Christ.
So, allow me to wish you a Happy 4th of July! I hope we all, especially we who are people of faith, can honor our nation and her authorities today with all the festivities the day affords. God bless America, land that I love; stand beside her and guide through the night with the light from above.