Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Would Jesus Have Me Love My Country?

As Christians living in the United States of America we find ourselves in a bit of an odd situation. We are not part of a persecuted minority religion like so many of our brothers and sisters in Christ around the world. Instead, Christianity remains the largest religion in this country (at least in terms of those who claim to be Christians). We also enjoy freedom of religion to a degree that far surpasses that of most fellow believers around the globe.

Because of these things, many American Christians have adopted a love of "God and country." We see this in much of evangelicalism today. We all agree that we should love God. However, should we love our country? For us Americans, should we love the USA?

Another way of putting it is this, "Would Jesus have me love my country?"

As we try to answer this question, we need to carefully define what we mean by the word "country." We could be talking about all the people who reside in the USA. We could be talking strictly about citizens of the USA regardless of where they live. We could also be talking about the nation state with its constitution, laws, military, flag, etc.

Let's look at a few verses to inform our thinking:

Matthew 22:34-40, "But when the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together. And one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. 'Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?' And he said to him, 'You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.'"

Jesus made it clear that we are to consider all people to be our neighbors. Therefore, as followers of Christ we should love our country if that refers to all people living in the USA. Of course, we should also love all people living outside the USA as well.

Another verse to consider: Philippians 3:20, "But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ."

As Christians our true citizenship is in heaven with God. This must logically mean that our true citizenship is not based on any man-made ideas, constructs, entities, or borders.

In light of this, it would be an absurd idea to say we should only love American citizens.

But what about the nation state that we refer to as the United States of America? Would Jesus have us love it?

Before I give my answer, I do want to say that I'm thankful to God for the freedoms that we have in the USA. God in his sovereignty has caused me to live here and I'm grateful for it.

Thankfulness, however, does not equal love.

As I search the scriptures I find absolutely no evidence that Jesus would have us love our nation-state. None. Zip. Zero. Christ calls on his followers to love God and neighbor. He never calls us to love any political state of any kind.

Should we obey the laws of the land? Certainly - as long as they don't conflict with God's expectations. Should we try to overthrow the government? By no means. Jesus never expected his followers to be political revolutionaries. Should we get involved in the governmental process such as voting? I think this is an area of Christian freedom.

But as far as love of nation state goes, we make a mistake if we think there is any biblical support for this. It just doesn't exist. I don't think Jesus would have me love my nation state.

I do, on the other hand, think Jesus would have me love my country if by that we mean all the people who live here. Our Lord calls us to lives of service to all people.

The answer all depends on how you define "country."

9 comments:

Aussie John said...

Eric,

"Of course, we should also love all people living outside the USA as well."

I'm glad you said that!

Eric said...

John,

I suppose this post was a bit America-centric, but I it had to be that way to deal with the topic. And yes, we love all those outside this nation state as well - no matter how far away they live.

Question: does the church in Australia mix love for God with love of country like happens so often here?

Aussie John said...

Eric,

To answer your question. No!

It seems that there is a greater pride in the fact that Australia started out as a penal colony, than in any aspect of Christianity.

Eric said...

When Jesus said "ye shall be hated of all nations for my name's sake", I think he meant all of them. Either the USA becomes this or it ceases to exist first. That is, if nation = nation-state as we understand it today. If it means people groups, well, we are already there. If a nation is a people group, then yes, Jesus would have us love them. If it is a nation-state established by man, I don't think so.

We are strangers and pilgrims on this earth.

But now they desire a better country, that is, an heavenly: wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God: for he hath prepared for them a city.

Eric said...

Eric,

Thanks for your comment. I really like this statement, "We are strangers and pilgrims on this earth." I couldn't agree more.

cm said...

Should we pledge allegiance to our country? I remember during Vacation Bible School we used to pledge allegiance to the American flag, the Christian flag and to the Bible. So, which one took precedence? If we pledge allegiance to our nation, where is our allegiance to our God and King?

Eric said...

cm,

The Pledge of Allegiance to the American flag is an interesting situation. I'm faced with it every week at my son's Boy Scout meeting. I still do it because it says "under God." I'm not sure how consistent I'm being with that, but for now it's where I am. What do you do?

Art Mealer said...

I served in the military for seven years, half that time in Asia. I kissed the ground on returning. The national anthem never fails to bring tears to my eyes.

Still, I do not consider myself an American, but a child of God in a land hostile to Him. I love Americans, and I want them to awaken to Him, to turn from their sin...

Eric said...

Art,

Thanks for commenting and well said. I hope the same as you do for our country.