Being a Christian Patriot Patriotism in Ungodly Countries
The horrific terrorist acts of September 11 caused a surge in American patriotism. Patriotic songs were sung at every opportunity and American flags were in short supply. Support for the president was unprecedented. President Bush was able to rally his subjects to support the government's fight against terrorism and it seemed as though he could do nothing wrong. Young and old were prepared to fight for their country to ensure that its freedom would be maintained.
Christians may struggle with this notion of patriotism — this love for one's country. Some suggest that patriotism and Christianity are synonymous. They believe that a deep commitment and love for their country is closely associated with their love and loyalty to God. Other Christians consider patriotism to be a dangerous notion. They are afraid that it will lead to an extreme form of nationalism, culminating in unjust wars based on jealousy and greed. It has often been expressed that a Christian's true citizenship is in heaven so he has no business being concerned with the affairs of the nations in this world. Some declare that patriotism is actually a form of idolatry and therefore should be avoided.
Patriotic Even in Exile
Of course, it's true that we are strangers and pilgrims in this world. We are only sojourners on earth and our real citizenship is in heaven. We may not for get that even though we are placed in this world, we are not of the world. Neither, however, should we forget that God, in His providence and wisdom has placed us in a particular country with a purpose just as everything determined by Him has purpose.
In Scripture it is clear that governments are established by God. Believers are encouraged to obey governments and to pray for them. We are instructed to pay our taxes and honor those in authority over us. All these matters point us in the direction that we are to care for the country in which we live and promote its well-being and proper functioning. We concern ourselves with the direction our leaders are taking our country. There does not need to be a conflict between acknowledging our heavenly citizenship and desiring the good of the country where we live temporarily. Our families and daily work are temporary too and God has given us very specific instructions on how to care for them as well. Jeremiah instructed the exiled people of Judah to "...seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper" (Jeremiah 29:7). If God instructs exiles to seek the well-being of the country to which they are taken captive, how much more should we show love for the country in which He has placed us and our families!
Patriotic about Ungodly Countries?
Now it would be easy to show love for our nation if we lived in a Christian country run by Scriptural principles. But we all know that this is certainly not the case for citizens of Canada, the United States or Australia. And then imagine what it would be like for a Christian living in communist China! Can we still be patriotic when we see our nations sliding down that slippery slope of secular humanism?
This is where we as Christians have been given special gifts for a special purpose. We are not called to be simply patriotic or to blindly endorse everything that leads to economic wealth or military superiority. We are called to be responsible Christian patriots.
The fact that Christians are called to seek the peace means that there is to be an active application of this command. You do not seek by remaining passive. Christians know that the best way to promote the well-being of their country is to live humbly in obedience to God, remembering that His Word can be applied to all of life. A Christian patriot will work persistently to promote Scriptural norms in all of life. He will work to have justice maintained in the laws and courts of the land and he will seek to have godly leaders elected to office, rulers who will recognize the authority of Jesus Christ in all that they do.
A true Christian patriot therefore seeks peace and prosperity for his country. He recognizes that God has placed him in a particular country for a purpose and he seeks to fulfill that purpose in words and deeds. And he looks forward to the time of his citizenship in the city that "does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light and the Lamb is its lamp" (Revelation 21:23).
On July 1, Canadians will celebrate their country's 135th birthday. May the words of our national anthem sound loudly and clearly from sea to sea, showing both our love for our God-given country and our hope for a glorious future.