Wednesday, July 6, 2022

American Citizens of Heaven

It's hard to even write about how God calls us, as Christians, to be nonpatriotic because American patriotism is so dangerous blended with Christian values in this country. But the fact that we've gotten this wrong doesn't change what is right, so here we are. And that leaves us with the question that we keep asking in a variety of contexts: how, then, should we live?

Remember that we are called to be nonpatriotic, not unpatriotic, and that means a few things. First, it means that it is not wrong to thank God that you were born in America and not somewhere else. It is not wrong to be mindful of the opportunities that being an American offers you. It is not wrong to pray for God to bless the country in which you live. As we've said all week, He even says as much - pray for the peace and prosperity of Babylon (America). 

And it's not even wrong, necessarily, to partake in cultural events like we have had this weekend. It's not wrong to attend a cookout with family and friends. It's not wrong to sit and watch fireworks. It's not wrong to light a few yourself. (But seriously - if you bought $1,000 worth of professional-grade fireworks, have the common decency to set them off in some empty parking lot somewhere and not your crowded neighborhood.) 

We approach these kinds of things with the wisdom of Paul, who said that if your conscience allows you to eat meat offered to idols, then do so. Go, fellowship with your community. Attend the things to which you are invited. Partake. It's an act of one anothering. Just...don't get drawn into it. 

Don't sacrifice the meat to idols yourself. Don't go wearing the accoutrement of the idol worshipers. Don't cross the line between faithfulness/righteousness and something less. And don't let what your conscience allows you to do be a stumbling block to someone who is still growing up in the faith. 

Then, we're faced with the questions about what we do about some of these other things. Like honoring the military. How do we navigate celebrating the armed forces of the state to which we only temporally belong? We are a people who don't love war (despite what those with shallow readings of the OT would try to argue), and if we don't love war and we don't belong to the state...what about the soldier?

Here's where that whole "love your neighbor" thing comes into play. We honor the sacrifices and the heart and the grit and the love of our neighbor for the things that we appreciate about being Americans - for the freedoms we have here that make it easier to be both Christian and nonpatriotic. We honor brothers and sisters who live and love right next to us, who also serve on behalf of things that we hold dear. 

There is no conflict here. There is no conflict between being nonpatriotic, not loving war, grieving the fighting of humans, appreciating that God knit us in our mothers' wombs in America, and loving our neighbor. This is a thoroughly consistent Christian way to live. 

The world doesn't see it this way, and of course, it's not easy. It seems really piecemeal and really inconsistent with itself, like we're just drawing wonky lines through life and landing wherever. The world says we're hypocrites if we step out of ceremonies worshiping America but, say, stand at a graveside for the playing of Taps. The world says we're just anti-fun, like Christians have "always been," when we don't set off fireworks or whatever. The world says we think we're better than them or that we're just trying to take a really public moral stand on a weird sort of ground. The world says that if we don't worship America, we don't love America and if that's the case, then we should just leave. 

But what we really are is citizens of Heaven - keeping our sights on the land from which we truly come, loving our neighbor, fellowshipping on the ground, thanking God for His blessings on our house, and longing for Home. 

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