Monday, July 7, 2008

Independence Day & the Kingdom of God

Well, the 4th of July has come and gone again for another year. I usually don't make a fuss over our Independence Day celebrations; I mean...it is what it is. News and Talk shows (especially FOX News) bombard us with "history" and pseudo-patriotism (I put "history" in quotes because it has been rewritten so often that we're really only getting the version that a particular station is subscribing to), the neighborhoods have a block party for no real reason except to get drunk and wear the flag (sometimes literally!), and then we all get together to watch (and be a part of) a fireworks display while singing "God Bless America", as if we, as a nation, even care anymore about God or His blessings. We live 364 days a year in relative ambivalence about anything outside of our own petty, self-centered ambitions (if it doesn't affect me personally in some way, leave me alone), and then we come together for one day to celebrate the goodness of God and the Birth of our nation as a land of Freedom and Liberty. "I'm Proud to be an American..."--Hogwash!

At best, our celebrations are only exercises in "Nationalism"; at worst they're simply excuses to party. God's name may even be invoked a few times in public, as though He should really be considered praiseworthy. Heck...I sometimes even hear His name mentioned in churches during a 4th of July sermon; although it's usually not in proclamation of the Gospel, but rather just to show that our "Founding Fathers" really believed in Him. How many of our Independence Day celebrations actually honor God and Country? What does that even mean? Is "Nationalism" the best that we can do? Even as Christians?

We celebrated the 4th at church on Sunday with a message about the Kingdom of God. We didn't set out to prepare a service specifically for the 4th of July, though if we had it would have probably sounded a lot like what we did anyway. The problem with churches preparing a specific service for the Independence Day celebration is that they usually degenerate into sermons on proving that our "Founding Fathers" were all Christians, or decrying the "secularization" of our nation, or a call for patriotism and the denunciation of certain elements in our government, etc. Similar to Veterans Day, our churches get so caught up in "honoring" our Nation and the men and women who serve in the military that they lose sight of the Gospel; the Gospel perspective that should be driving our churches is too often replaced by a National perspective that misses the Global aspect of the Kingdom of God.

When we lose sight of the Kingdom of God in all its Universal Glory, we fail to properly celebrate and honor God for His goodness to us as a Nation. There's nothing wrong with being proud to be an American; we have certainly been blessed by God and we have the right and even the obligation to praise and honor Him for it. It is also good and right to honor all those who have sacrificed in order for us to celebrate our Freedom and Liberty. But when we do so without the proper perspective of who we are as Children of God, as those who belong to the Kingdom of God, then we really dishonor God and the sacrifice of those who've given their lives; we elevate our "unity" with the citizens of a particular Nation (U.S.A.) over our unity with God and His Kingdom which is comprised of all those who belong to Christ from every Tribe, Tongue and Nation under God.

We must view ourselves first, or primarily as citizens of God's Kingdom before we can ever hope to honor God and His blessings to us as citizens of this earthly kingdom. How is it possible to honor God if we reduce our celebration to America...if we are so narrowly focused on us as a nation that we fail to empathize with our Brothers and Sisters across the Globe? Sure, we're celebrating our Independence, "America's" Independence, not Ethiopia's or Russia's or...whoever; but God's blessing on us is not restricted to us...as if we're the only ones to benefit from His goodness to us. Unless we can see ourselves in the suffering of our Brothers and Sisters who are living under ungodly and even satanic regimes, how can we be honoring God in our celebration? Did God bless us only for our good? What is our calling as a (supposedly) "Christian" Nation?

Only Christians can truly honor God (or anything else, for that matter) because only the person that has had her relationship restored to God in Christ knows God and understands God's creation properly. Only the Biblical Christian sees Creation and all of its interdependent relationships as God does; as God has ordained from the beginning. Only in Christ does a person truly acknowledge the "goodness" of the Created Order (as God created it) and the inherent dignity of Man as God's Image-Bearer. Only those who have been joined to Christ and are now Children of God, citizens of the Spiritual & Universal Kingdom of God have the proper perspective toward His creation and have the "heart" to truly worship God and honor His works. Only the Christian can celebrate Independence Day properly because only the Christian properly understands and values God and His blessings!

Having said that (and if you don't believe me...read the Bible--both Testaments!), only as we celebrate in light of our true citizenship in the universal Kingdom of God, remembering that our true Brothers and Sisters come from every Tongue, Tribe and Nation under God; only in this way do we truly honor our National heritage while at the same time honoring our "Christian" heritage as those who share the Spirit with all who belong to Him. We live in a great Country, a Country extremely blessed by God; and a country that we should be proud to be earthly citizens of. But, as Christians, we long for the "better" Country; the Country that our Father Abraham and the Patriarchs longed for even as they were traveling through their own land, the "country" that God had given them! They "owned" the "promised land" as their own Country, and they even settled there and built altars there--but they didn't claim it as their "home". They looked for the better Country; the Country that God had prepared for them and for all who have the faith of Abraham. We too long for that better Country; the Country that we're even citizens of right now!--the country that is the New Jerusalem, the Kingdom of God! And this is the Country that Jesus inaugurated at His first coming (a Country that all true believers are citizens of--now!) and will consummate in fullness at His second coming.

When we celebrate our own National heritage in the light of who we are as citizens of God's Global Kingdom, then we rightly understand who we are as citizens of this earthly kingdom; and what's expected of us. Remember, even as we share a unity of citizenship with all those who belong to the U.S.A., we also, and more importantly, share the unity of the Spirit with people from every Tongue, Tribe and Nation and that together--with them--we are the "...Chosen Race, the Royal Priesthood, the Holy Nation, and the People for God's own Possession", for the purpose of "...Proclaiming the excellencies of Him who has called us out of darkness and into His Marvelous Light"! We honor God by sharing in the Gospel with all our Brothers and Sisters throughout the world and sharing the Gospel with the rest of the world that doesn't know Him. If our celebration of our Independence Day doesn't take this into account, then we dishonor God and Country! I pity our churches that elevate Patriotism over Gospel--God will judge!

6 comments:

April said...

Thanks, Jason. Excellent reminder; it's refreshing to hear this perspective on something that is so misused/abused.

Abbey said...

Ah...like a breath of fresh air. Like April said, it's very nice to hear such a different (but hopefully not new) way of thinking of the 4th. Oh, and I loved your description of what happens on the 4th. :P

Mr. Creep said...

Oh, man, that was really funny and very good, too :D Thanks for taking the time to write these!

Jeff said...

Whoooo, WEEE! PREACH IT!!! LOVE it! Man, if only somebody would give a message like that on national television, on the 4th of July. I can picture a flag waving in the background, and patriotic music playing...and then comes that SERMON! OH, yeah! Wow! That would be great!

One suggestion, however: I would enjoy reading your article much more if it wasn't such a strain on my eyes. Light-colored text on a light gray background causes headaches for someone like me who wears contacts. PLEASE make it more contrasting...white text on a black background, black text on a white background, yellow text on a black background, etc. I sit at a computer all day at work, and my eyes are already tired when I get home and sit at my computer again.

Great Googly Moogly! said...

Thanks Jeff. If you think I'm "preachy" here, you should hear me in person. Maybe that's why I started writing again--because my friends were getting irritated having to "listen" to me all the time?! :-)

Better watch the use of those exclamation points...Abbey will have a fit if she reads it!! :-)

I understand your concern about color contrast. I'll play around with it and try to get it right. I just wanted to have some color in here somewhere--I'll figure something out.

Abbey said...

"Better watch the use of those exclamation points...Abbey will have a fit if she reads it!! :-)"

Grr...I think I'll think twice before saying anything like that again in the presence of the great JJ.