Over the past several years, the 4th of July has always been an awkward holiday for me. In my upbringing as a Christian there was a huge emphasis on America being God’s “light on a hill” and that somehow the 4th of July turned into some kind of religious celebration. This has bothered me quite a bit, especially in light of a renewed understanding of Jesus and his love for ALL nations. I feel as though we as Americans have sort of robbed Jesus and kept him as our own and we use him as a tool to advance our American dreams and ideals. If we stop and think about it and what Jesus might have to say about it, it should make us feel a little uncomfortable. As the picture above suggests, we’ve treated Jesus as some kind of American freedom fighter who is pro-America, pro-freedom (as abstract as that is), pro-democracy, pro-capitalism, etc. This of course means that Jesus is also against anything that is against us (as Americans). This is what makes it awkward for me… when it comes to our past a country, there have been many wars fought and advanced in the name of American ideals against real people who are (in our minds) against these ideals. While there have been a number of evil people and systems that America has overcome there has been a lot of bloodshed and ideals advanced that may not have been in the best interest of other people or nations that may not necessarily be evil (just on the wrong side). When we align ourselves with our nation first and forget to align ourselves first with the Kingdom of God things get messy. If we align ourselves first with the kingdom of God and its principles and teachings, it makes us (or should) think twice about our own countries ideals. As followers of Jesus, a part of the kingdom of God, the WHOLE world is and should be our priority. God loves ALL people EVERYWHERE and does not align himself with any one nation. Through Jesus, he aligned himself with ALL OF HUMANITY.
So here is where my patriotism comes in…and this has been EXTREMELY difficult for me to fully understand and live by…
I truly believe that God works all things for the good. Somehow, even through evil, through selfish ambitions, through self-seeking governments, irresponsible nations, through war, through anti-God’s kingdom practices, somehow things can work themselves for the good. So while many of you would call me anti-America, I’ve come to terms with the fact that God has placed me (us) in this time in history within this country. We’ve gained our freedom through people over the course of our history who have fought for it. And while I don’t believe that God blessed those efforts or approved them, it’s what happened and it’s why I have the freedom to write this.
So today as I watch the fireworks, I trust that I am here to use the freedom we have to further God’s kingdom. We have the freedom to call out and fight injustice in our own backyard, in our country, and in the world at large, and not be thrown in prison for it (most of the time). Of course, as followers of Jesus we should fight these injustices through creative, non-violent ways and not resort to violence as the kingdom of this world does. We must remember that we are not of the world but of God’s kingdom. This is a unique opportunity and I celebrate today, remembering the people (on both sides) that have lost their lives fighting for what they believed. I align myself with the Kingdom of God and plan to continue using my freedom to spread God’s love and His teachings regardless of how anti-American they may seem. So despite how I or anyone else may feel about what our country was, is, or is heading let us remember that God works all things for the Good and we are called to try and find that good in everything and everyone.
Grace & Peace