Consider the new song of praise sung to Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God. “Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation, and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth” (Revelation 5:9, 10). Then consider the words of the apostle Paul. “But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who 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 3:20, 21).
God knows I love my country, the United States of America. There are those moments when my heart and body are moved with emotion, humility, and yes, patriotic pride—a song, a reading, a military salute at a funeral, a parade, a cemetery or memorial, standing on a battlefield imagining the sounds of battle, trying to sense the fear and courage of the soldiers engaged in a horrific struggle for their lives. Independence Day, July 4, I pause to remember the price paid by so many for the freedoms I often take for granted. It is a day to remind myself of the responsibilities these freedoms bring. My love for my country does not blind my eyes or heart to its sins. Its sins do not blind my eyes or heart to its goodness.
As my fathers before me, I give thanks to God who, in his providence, at the least allowed this nation to rise, or, for reasons which cannot be known with certainty, purposely established this nation. I give thanks to God who, for whatever reason, has blessed disciples of Jesus Christ who live in America with peace and freedom as we live lives of faith in Jesus Christ. For this I give thanks to God and pray for this continued blessing.
I love this country in which I was born and live. Yet, as a follower of Jesus Christ I am a citizen of the kingdom of God. I am part of this kingdom which breaks down walls, boundaries, borders, ethnic prejudices, enmity, and hatred. All who have been redeemed by the blood of the Lamb, Jesus Christ, the Son of God, have been made the kingdom of God by Jesus Christ the Lamb of God. The followers of Christ from every tribe and language and people and nation are a holy nation, God’s people, God’s own possession, God’s one nation, God’s one people, God’s kingdom.
As it is for all citizens of the kingdom of God, whatever nation in which they live, as a follower of Christ in America I am challenged to live for the glory of Christ my Lord. I am to live as a good citizen in my behavior, respecting authority, and praying for my nation and its leaders (no matter who those leaders are). Yet at the same time, as a citizen of the kingdom of God, I am to live in America as an alien, a stranger, a pilgrim. The central, core, purpose in my life as a follower of Christ is to bring glory to God by the way I live my life, through the message of Christ which I live and proclaim. What loyalty I have toward America is to be rooted in my loyalty to God. Loyalty to God and to Christ is to be the loyalty to which I give myself above all other loyalties.
In the movie “Chariots of Fire”, the crusty old chairman of the British sports committee scolded Eric Liddel, “In my day it was king first and God after.” There was a clash between Eric’s faith and what he was being asked to do for his country. Eric responded, “God knows I love my country but I can’t sacrifice my loyalty to Him.”