When you went to church last Sunday what did your stage look like? Was it like it looked every other Sunday worship service? Maybe there were some flowers to lighten things up? Maybe you have one of those cool old school boards that give the numbers of congregants from the last week and the amount tithed. Maybe yours even goes so far as to have the order of service listed out, complete with hymnal numbers (does ANYONE but the Catholics do that anymore?) Or as your preacher delivered the message did you get the strange feeling that he was either running for public office, or riding a 4th of July float? Regardless of how your church auditorium or sanctuary looks, the question is this: What did it look like LAST Sunday, July 4th?
Many churches across the country decorated with American flags for the 4th of July. Most of you are probably saying, “Yeah, so?”. But maybe there is a bigger question than you think involved here. For many folks, having the flag in a worship service to God is a MAJOR conflict. It can be downright offensive to lots of people. If you want to know the truth…it makes me a little uncomfortable. But to others…it is genuinely a major conflict of conscience.
I tried to have a civil conversation about this on Facebook. I asked all my friends what they thought, in the innocent but hopelessly naïve and ignorant thought we each could discuss our personal viewpoints without getting upset or angry. Of course…this could not happen. I was greatly bothered by the fact that most folks who had differing opinions were completely, utterly, and totally opposed to even listening to anything new. Objectivity was completely gone.
My point in its MOST SIMPLE form was this: once you or I give our lives to Christ, we are NO LONGER citizens of this great nation. Our loyalty MUST lie first and foremost to the Kingdom of God! And anytime our patriotism comes before this (which can be often, without us even knowing it), we walk a dangerous line…one that I consider idolatry. As soon as most of my friends heard that I was not completely comfortable with the flag in the church…no one would listen. So…I am asking you what you think. Can the flag be an idol? I think it absolutely can.
Let me clear this up…….I am VERY am thankful to live in a country that grants us the freedoms we have, so no I decline your offer to move south of the border. I am aware of the great cost of sacrifice my personal freedoms I take for granted cost. I know how blessed I am. So yes…..that makes me patriotic! But when folks are wearing THIS shirt to church: JesUSAves. It bugs me. It’s as if we are the ONLY people that Christ cares for and ultimately died for.
All I want to point out is that the Kingdom Jesus came to establish is “not of this world”. And it is this kingdom’s passport that we should be getting stamped! I have always struggled with this idea I was spoon fed more regularly than biscuits n gravy in the bible thumpin’ South, that we are "God’s nation". From what my feeble mind can recall, the only nation that God ever called out was Israel and the last I knew…and based on the fact that I just passed 2 eateries advertising delectable pork treats, we are NOT in Israel. I am convinced this idea came from the facts we were give often as kids that the USA was founded by a bible-totin’ group of fervent, God fearing men. Most of my research shows this is not quite as true as we were always led to believe…but that’s another blog all together. As author Greg Boyd says it: “Believing that lie, patriotic Christians have tragically followed the orders of earthly rulers and marched into battle “for God and country,” rather than following the example of Jesus—who gave His life for the people who persecuted Him. Ironically, in some cases the “enemies” Christians have slaughtered have been other patriotic Christians who happened to be born in other countries, or other parts of the same country. Few things have done more to discredit Christianity than the patriotic zeal with which Christians have participated in violence.”
That should AT LEAST cause you to pause and to think a little bit. There just may be some truth there. Anything in our lives that comes before God is idolatry. If real citizenship is in heaven then our job is to live as ambassadors of Christ!
I love my country, but my sole allegiance is to the heavenly Kingdom that calls me to surrender all my rights as an American! God’s kingdom is a mighty vast one! It includes folks from every nation, race and political persuasion. There all earthly distinctions carry no meaning.
I pray that I am ALWAYS appreciative of our country. I am grateful to live here and for what it took to make this place what it is. I am not telling anyone not to be patriotic. But I am urging all of us make sure our pride in those unbleeding colors never takes precedence over our allegiance to the Kingdom of God.