True Patriots

We have once again celebrated July 4th, marking the 248th year since our founding fathers announced the Declaration of Independence. Flags have flown, fireworks have been displayed, and fresh performances of “God Bless America” have been shared. It begs a critical question: what does it mean for us to be both Christians and “patriots?”

Followers of Christ who are also US citizens share a dual citizenship, one of which far outweighs the other. Our allegiance to Jesus far supersedes our allegiance to our nation, no matter how patriotic we might feel. As Paul instructs in his letter to the Philippians, “Above all, you must live as citizens of heaven, conducting yourselves in a manner worthy of the Good News about Christ” (Philippians 1:27).

The common patriotic slogan, “My country, right or wrong,” is unacceptable for Christians. While Scripture does not prohibit sharing in national identity and even national pride, there is no room for blind advocacy for our country. Put directly, nations come and nations go, and only God’s Kingdom is eternal.

So, what does patriotism look like for us as Christ-followers? God provides us with some clear guidelines.

  • True Christian patriots pray for and repent on behalf of their nation. Consider God’s well-known instructions in 2 Chronicles 7:14: “If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” We must recognize we share the responsibility for the sins of our nation, even if we are not individually involved in them. Even Daniel, one of the few persons in Scripture for whom no personal sin is highlighted, understood that in as much as he was a citizen of Israel, he needed to seek forgiveness for his nation: “Lord, the great and awesome God, who keeps his covenant of love with those who love him and keep his commandments, we have sinned and done wrong. We have been wicked and have rebelled; we have turned away from your commands and laws” (Daniel 9:4-5). Like him, we must stand in the prayer and repentance gap on behalf of this country.
  • True Christian patriots confront their nation about the sin in their midst. Christ followers cannot “lie low and hope for the best” in the face of our nation’s accelerating rush toward wickedness and ungodliness. We must heed God’s warning in Ezekiel 33:7-10: “I have made you a watchman for the people of Israel…When I say to the wicked, ‘You wicked person, you will surely die,’ and you do not speak out to dissuade them from their ways, that wicked person will die for their sin, and I will hold you accountable for their blood. But if you do warn the wicked person to turn from their ways and they do not do so, they will die for their sin, though you yourself will be saved.” Speaking up for God’s truth is not optional, nor is it just the responsibility of “professional ministers.” All of us must speak the truth in love, even in the face of resistance.
  • True Christian patriots intentionally live as salt and light. The only hope of any nation is individuals transformed by a saving relationship with Jesus. As Jesus put it in Matthew 5:13-16, “You are the salt of the earth…You are the light of the world… let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” The answer for our nation is not some military, political, economic, or diplomatic “silver bullet”; as always, the only answer is Jesus, redeeming hearts one person at a time. We must step up as messengers of that hope.

For the Christian, patriotism is far more than flying a flag, singing an anthem, or cheering for the red, white and blue. True Christian patriots pray and repent for our nation, speak truth to our nation, and live as salt and light, sharing that the answer to our nation’s problems rests only in personal faith in Jesus Christ.

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