Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Kingdom vs. Country -- Where is Our Allegiance?

This comes as a follow-up to Saturday's writings on celebrating America and patriotism. I have all of these ideas in my head, all of these thoughts that need to be said, but I'm not sure how to start other than to rip the band-aid off.

"Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things. 20But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, 21who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself."
--Philippians 3:19-21

Somewhere along the way we've gotten confused. We've traded in the assurance of grace and eternity for the comfort of the land in which we live. We've traded the power of God to save us for the power of democracy to enable us. Instead of pledging our allegiance to eternity in heaven we pledge it to a flag. It seems as though it isn't enough to be Christian if you live in America. It used to be "God, country, and apple pie," but somewhere along the way country took precedence.

Saturday I stated that we need more patriotism. Today I'm saying we need to keep it in perspective. It's okay to celebrate the country we live in. It is this country's commitment to freedom that allows us to worship where we want, when we want, and how we want. The problem comes when that respect colors our belief.

We can never forget that God created the world, not just the United States. We can never forget that Jesus died for the world, not just the United States. We should not allow ourselves to be comfortable here. This is not where we are going to spend the rest of our lives. Our call, our privilege is to help bring the kingdom here.

The problem comes when we mix patriotism with worship. I know this is going to be an unpopular opinion. The moment we mix patriotism with worship we cross into dangerous territory. The line can become blurred. Are we worshiping God or country? Are we pledging allegiance to our country or to heaven?

Too often as a church we get caught up in patriotic celebrations around Independence Day, Memorial Day, and Veteran's Day. We intermix our services with music and speeches that don't pay tribute to God above, don't add to the worship, and don't point to the good news of the gospel. In doing so we fail to live up to the grace that has been given to us freely, we fail to uphold the living God in Jesus as the center of our lives.

This is not meant as an attack on anyone. This is meant to provoke thought in everyone. I agree we need to be thankful for the nation we live in, but I am bothered that we have become more concerned with the country and less with the kingdom.