Tuesday, July 5, 2011

A Christian Perspective On Being American

Let me begin by saying I am so thankful I live in America. I will never forget the first time I traveled overseas to a foreign country. I was a college student and spent six weeks in China. It was a very important, eye-opening experience for my life. But I was honest, the greatest part of that trip was landing back on American soil. Since that time, I have had many opportunities to travel overseas, and I always loving coming back through customs in America.

Trust me, I am a fan of America. You should have seen our family celebrate when Landon Donovan scored that game winning goal in the World Cup. You should see how we watch the Olympics and cheer fervently for the USA. When it comes to the Ryder Cup, it is all America! I am through and through an American.

However, I do not and can not worship this country! I do not and can not make my Christianity something to do with my nationality. It is my view that it is very easy for many American Christians to get caught up in America to such an extent that their country has become their god! I seems to me that many tend to celebrate and think that God has some special favor for this country that He doesn't have for other countries. To this, I say, I refuse to worship America (or any country). Let me explain. 

4 Reasons I Refuse To Worship America (or any country)

1.  This Is Not My Home

The words Paul says in Philippians 3:20 are very appropriate. "Our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ." Just because I have a blue passport that has USA imprinted on it, does not mean this is my home. Yes, I live here for now. But it is not my home. This has been a hard concept for me to grasp. But the more I realize that my real home is somewhere else, the less I am tempted to worship this place. Let us never forget that America is temporary. Even if this country lasts another 235 years, it will eventually perish. It will end. Yet we will live forever. 

I guess I tend to worship my country when I forget to eagerly wait for my Savior, who is in Heaven and will be coming back to get me someday. It was this Savior who has instructed me to not waste my time storing up things here, but to live for the eternal (Matt. 6:19:24). But He is my first love and He is the One I can't wait to see someday. As I long for Jesus, my heart is not conflicted with worshiping America (or any other country).

2.  God Sovereignly Placed Me Here

It seems backwards for me to take pride in this place as my home when in reality, I was placed here by a sovereign act of God. Why I was born in the USA towards the end of the 21st Century, I will never know. What I do know is that He placed me here by His sovereign choice. Paul argued in his sermon on Mars Hill that God "made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined their appointed times and the boundaries of their habitation" (Acts 17:26).

God determined my time and the boundary of my habitation. He made sure I would be born in Northeast Indiana in 1973. He could have just as easily placed me to be born in Haiti in 1935, but He didn't. For me to worship my country instead of the One who determines times & boundaries is sort of backwards, don't you think? 

3.  God Is Not American

A friend of mine tells the story of once asking an older gentleman at his church if he thought God was American. The man's answer: "Yes, of course." I hope that shocks you as it did me. But that is an attitude of many American Christians. I doubt there is another country in the world that has quoted 2 Chronicles 7:14 more than we have: "If my people, who are called by My name humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, will forgive their sin and will heal their land." This is not about us. It is about the nation of Israel, God's chosen people. I do believe that God will honor those that honor Him. I also believe that for so long, America has been blessed because we have fought to defend Israel (Genesis 12:3). But to say that this is God's country or even that God is American is silly. 

Let me just say something that might seem controversial. But I ask you to think carefully about this statement before reacting: The God of the Bible cares as much for the Arab Sheikh, the African orphan, the Russian politician, and the South Korean soldier as He does for the all-American boy or girl! This must be true, unless of course, we falsely believe that God somehow thinks highly of us because of who we are or what we have done. There is nothing in us that makes us attractive to God.

It is often over-quoted and usually mis-quoted, but God does love the entire world and sent His Son to die upon the cross that "whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life" (John 3:16). That "whoever" is not limited to race or nationality. We are told in heaven, there will be people "from every nation and all tribes and peoples and tongues" worshipping God (Rev. 7:9). It's not about being American, it's about being a follower of Jesus.

4.  Prosperity Tends To Hinder Genuine Faith

Jesus said wealth will hinder genuine saving faith. It was a normal day when a rich, young man came to Jesus looking for salvation. Jesus tells him that you cannot hold onto your wealth and love God at the same time. What Jesus was saying was no different from what He said in the Sermon on the Mount: "No one can serve two masters . . . You cannot serve God and wealth" (Matt. 6:24). After the young man leaves disappointed, Jesus turns to His disciples and says "It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of God" (Luke 18:25). 

We are surrounded by wealth and prosperity that has hindered faith in the lives of people in America. If I were honest, in my moments of strong faith, I have prayed that God would make America less prosperous, so that people will be less likely to trust in their riches and turn to God. In my moments of weak faith, I don't pray that.

I know there will be the possibility that my words will be taken out of context. Yesterday was the 4th of July. A time of celebration of the founding of our country. My views of my country have nothing to do with the bravery of those who have fought for my freedom. I am forever indebted for them that my family gets to grow up in a place where they can worship the Lord God of the Bible without the threat of death. One of my favorite items in my office is the Bible my grandfather used in WWII. I am so thankful to all my friends who are in the military that keep my freedom secure so I can write a blog like this. They are more brave than I. Please do not take what I am saying as though I am unthankful for my country. I just refuse to worship it!

If you agree with me, how do you think American Christians tend to worship America instead of God?

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