Philippians 3:20-21 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.
I never realized how American I was until I riding the Tube in London marveling how quiet it was…even during the evening rush hour. We take cultural givens for granted. Apple pie at a restaurant. Fireworks on the Fourth. Freedom of speech, no matter how intelligent, belligerent, germane, or inane.
I am glad to be an American. The accident of birth that allowed me such a privilege is something for which I’m grateful.
But I am far more glad that Jesus found me. Some might scorn that’s as much an accident of birth as my earthly citizenship. But cultural Christianity in the ghostly form of 1950s civil religion was not how I came into contact with the overwhelming love of the Living God. Besides, human nature being what it is, any soul that says yes to Christ’s call cannot be taken as a given.
Which is why I find the bleeding of star-spangled patriotism into American Christianity so dangerous. It confuses where our salvation comes from.
In St Paul’s day, Roman citizens enjoyed a certain amount of privilege – not unlike being an American citizen. But those privileges masquerade as divine rescue. We start to think our liberty as believers comes from the Bill of Rights, not the Bible. We buy into the American dream of the consumeristic juggernaut instead of the joy of the Lord. We expect our protection to come from our men and women in uniform instead of taking refuge under the shadow of God’s wings.
But freedom, security, contentment…these can only be found when our consciences are washed clean of guilt and our motivations derive from a new heart from Jesus. Our citizenship is in heaven. On this planet earth we are merely foreigners. Sometimes welcome, usually unwelcome. And until Christ returns to bring heaven to earth, our celestial passports are the only privilege worth counting on.
The moment we prefer the good things of Rome, America, or any other earthly state over grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, we are in danger of idolatry. Right now God and Country language merely smacks of syncretism. At what point will it transfer over to worship of country directly, not even a red, white, and blue crucifix to give Jesus a perfunctory nod?
I thank God I am American. But more than that, I thank God he has adopted me into his family by grace through faith. So should my country ever disappear as so many other earthly kingdoms litter the annals of history, my name is on the role where neither war, nor disaster, nor natural decay can destroy. I am marked as Christ’s own forever!