After that headline I need to begin with a disclaimer: I love my country. I think that it is good to be patriotic. I’m thankful that God put me here. I don’t want you to jump to the wrong conclusion by what follows.
Here’s my concern. I am concerned that the evangelical church (not individuals here but churches) has become so involved in flag waving that people, especially those from other faiths, cannot see the difference between what it means to be an American and what it means to be a Christian. And if this is true, even to the smallest degree, haven’t we in some way hindered the gospel?
I’m not talking about our country or government promoting democracy and freedom around the world. My concern is with the Church of Jesus Christ. To what extent does the Church get involved in promoting either democracy or America? To what extent do we mix faith and patriotism?
I realize that there are some evangelical churches and even complete Christian denominations that shy away from getting involved in anything remotely political, even to the extent of not displaying the American flag in their church. But they seem to be in the minority, at least in my experience.
So what about the gospel? Have we made accepting the gospel equivalent to accepting democracy? Or at least accepting America? The crucial answer to this question is not your answer – it is the answer of the Muslim in Iran or the Hindu in India or the Buddhist or the Jew. It is their perception of what we are doing that matters, not ours. And if what they see in our actions is not the gospel and only the gospel then we have failed.
As Americans we need to wrestle with this issue. For generations our churches have displayed the American flag, held patriotic services, said the Pledge of Allegiance, sang the National Anthem, and endorsed God and Country rallies. For most of us it would be un-American not to do all of this and more. But as Christians what we do in our churches is not about being a patriotic American it’s about being a Christian. It’s a spiritual question not a patriotic question.
We need to engage on a range of issues that will impact where we finally land on this topic:
Is it the function of the church to promote the country in which it exists (for example to hold God and Country services)?
What does it mean that our citizenship is in heaven as opposed to this earth (Philippians 3:20) and how does that impact our actions?
What does it mean that we are sojourners and pilgrims on this earth (1 Peter 2:11)?
In what way is Abraham who waited for the city . . . whose builder and maker is God (Hebrews 11:10) our example?
Is our promotion of democracy and/or America hindering people in other countries from listening to the gospel?
Remember our primary responsibility is the gospel – not democracy or even America, as great as she is.
Stay in the Word