God Knows Your Address

USA flag

Most Americans celebrated the fourth of July yesterday, a fact social media could not pass over. Twitter was chirping all day Saturday about whether or not religious leaders in America should even give the slightest of head nods to the national holiday. Is patriotism a sin?

First, anything can become an idol. Anything we place over our identity in Christ is by definition an idol in our lives. Even being a part of a country founded upon ideals that align with specific Christian values can take up too much real estate in our hearts. It is possible to allow our allegiance to our country to overshadow our commitment to Christ.

Second, I think sometimes Christians get caught in the crossfire of social media “Jesus jukes” and can bear the scars of false guilt as it relates to living in America. Should I feel bad we aren’t publicly persecuted? How can I celebrate our history when so much of it is really ugly and anti-biblical? These are the kind of questions we sometimes face when thinking about apple pie, BBQ, and fireworks.

Here’s some basic biblical principles I like to keep in mind when thinking about such things:

#1: God is sovereign over where we live (Acts 17:24-27)

“The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by human hands. 25 And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything. Rather, he himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else. 26 From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands. 27 God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us.

#2: It is right to give honor to those to whom honor is due, so honoring courageous soldiers is good and right (Proverbs 3:27, Romans 13:7)

Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due, when it is in your power to act.

Give to everyone what you owe them: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor.

#3: We are commanded to pray for peace, so living in a peaceful nation is not a bad thing (1 Timothy 2:1-4)

I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people— 2 for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. 3 This is good, and pleases God our Savior, 4 who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. 

#4: We are commanded to pray for others living and serving in places where gospel ministry is difficult (2 Thessalonians 3:1-3)

As for other matters, brothers and sisters, pray for us that the message of the Lord may spread rapidly and be honored, just as it was with you. 2 And pray that we may be delivered from wicked and evil people, for not everyone has faith. 3 But the Lord is faithful, and he will strengthen you and protect you from the evil one.

#5: We are to do all to the glory of God (Colossians 3:17)

And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

#6: Our feasting and celebrations are a reminder of God’s existence and provision (Acts 14:17)

Yet he has not left himself without testimony: He has shown kindness by giving you rain from heaven and crops in their seasons; he provides you with plenty of food and fills your hearts with joy.

Yesterday at church my wife and I sat next to a friend from China. He is a faithful follower of Jesus. He knows a lot more about challenges to religious freedom than I will ever know. And yet, here he is in America pursuing his academic goals. There’s much to give thanks for, even as we pray for our siblings in Christ around the world. We can all give thanks for where we live, recognize God’s provision in our feasting, even as we seek to glorify God and work towards the expansion of the gospel globally.