“But we are citizens of heaven, where the Lord Jesus Christ lives. And we are eagerly waiting for him to return as our Savior.” Phil. 3:20
Sometimes, it is not easy being an American Christian. On the one hand, I dearly love my country. I believe our rights and freedoms are a gift from God and we must exercise good stewardship over them. That is, we should be good citizens, keep ourselves informed, and participate in our republican democracy. The Apostle Paul did not hesitate to use his Roman citizenship to the best advantage both personally and pastorally.
On the other hand, no kingdom of this earth can hold the affection and loyalty of my heart as does Christ’s kingdom. I am a Christian first, an American second.
Honesty and fidelity require me to recognize that the policies and interests of my earthly country may conflict with the policies and interests of my heavenly country. When that is the case, my first duty is and must be to the King of Glory. I am compelled in those times to cry out with a voice that is both prophetic and patriotic, “Thus says the LORD,” to do everything I can to speak truth to power.
Likewise, there are times when the customs and culture of my earthly home run contrary to the customs and culture of my heavenly home. When that is the case, I must live (and urge others to live) according to the ways of heaven, not the ways of earth. This is Peter’s point in his letter: “Dear friends, I urge you, as aliens and strangers in the world, to abstain from sinful desires, which war against your soul. Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.” 1 Pet. 2:11-12
So, today I celebrate my nation’s birth. I thank God for this life, this liberty, this pursuit of happiness. I embrace anew the responsibilities that come with those rights.
But I celebrate even more the Kingdom that shall have no end, the kingdom of righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit. I thank God for true life in Christ, for true liberty in Christ, for the pursuit of true happiness in Christ. And I embrace anew the obligations that come with those unspeakable blessings.
Father, please help me to be a good citizen in Your Kingdom at all times, and to be good citizen in this nation You have blessed on earth.