Biblical patriotism or nationalistic idolatry?
Published 11:56 am Wednesday, July 6, 2016
If you saw our family on July 4, you would not have been able to miss our matching red, white and blue outfits — even the baby. If you drive by our house even today you will see the thrifty American flag wood pallet displayed on our porch that’s trending on Pinterest.
That royal blue lighted by a sky of 50 stars brightens our spirits as we celebrate the 240th year of our great country. This land is truly a phenomenon, not only in modern history, but all of history. But as we light up the grills, the sparklers and the fireworks, have we ever considered that it may be possible to worship America? What does nationalistic idolatry even look like? What does biblical patriotism look like?
I was struck by this thought when reading 2 Chronicles 6:32-33. These verses are in the midst of a long dedicatory prayer by King Solomon as the people of Israel consecrated the newly constructed temple in Jerusalem. At the end of this prayer the fire and glory of the Lord filled the temple! Talk about fireworks.
But in the midst of a moment where you would expect the Israelite to sing, “And I’m proud to be an Israelite, where at least God’s temple resides,” the king takes time to reflect on the foreigner who would be blessed by the temple. If there were ever a moment where hyper-nationalism or ethnocentrism would almost ring appropriate, this was it, but King Solomon resisted. Instead he prayed to the Lord that the foreigners would be blessed when worshipping at the temple, with the result that “all the peoples of the earth may know your name and fear you, as do your people Israel, and that they may know that this house that I have built is called by your name.”
Do you see the bigger purpose of Israel welcoming the foreigner? It wasn’t to make a great name of King Solomon. It wasn’t to make a great name for Israel. It was so that all the people of the earth may know and fear God! God was the focus, the object of Solomon’s affection. It was for His glory. Solomon wanted the world to know that the temple was called by the name of the one true God. Israel was a means to an end. Not the end.
It begs the question for us. Do we worship America? Or do we worship the God who is sovereign over all of the nations, including America? Here are a few diagnostic questions to help discern our own hearts:
• Do you watch the election coverage with more passion than reading your Bible?
• Do you defend America’s greatness at the cost of ignoring or de-emphasizing America’s failures that don’t meet the ethical standards of the Bible?
• Are you more agitated by a particular politician being elected than your own sin?
• Do you have disdain for other nations to the point that you do not pray for them and deep down you don’t care if they ever hear about the good news of Jesus Christ?
• Do you think that without America, God would be helpless and his Gospel could not be spread?
Biblical patriotism acknowledges this danger, this possibility of making an idol even out of blessings God has bestowed upon us. My wife loves me, but she shouldn’t worship me. We can love America, but don’t worship it.
Rather the Christian citizenry of America can honor America by praying for America as Franklin Graham is exemplifying with his Decision America Tour to all 50 states — Graham will be in Richmond on Oct. 12. Christians can honor America by pointing our neighbors to the God who has authority over all of the nations, including America (Acts 17:26). Christians should even honor America by going to the election booth with biblical convictions to vote for the best candidates. But we are not voting for a Messiah — we already have one coming.
It is a blessing to live in the land of the free. May we thank God for this land. May we contend as citizens of this country to make it a better place for the next generation. But may the Christian long as a citizen of heaven for a greater kingdom that is coming. The Christian’s ultimate hope is not America — it’s Jesus. This world is broken, yes, even America, but there is a new kingdom that is coming. May the Christian citizenry utter and believe the words in the Lord’s Prayer: “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” Come Lord Jesus, come!
Matthew Homan is the pastor of Eureka Baptist Church. He can reached at email@example.com.