God Before Country

I was recently invited to see the Oklahoma City Dodgers minor league baseball team. The experience was enjoyable as with any baseball game – good ballgame, good company, and good food. There wasn’t anything that occurred that hadn’t at any other game I have attended. Yet one thing seemed to stand out from the rest – the playing of the national anthem. This, of course, you’ll see at any sporting event throughout the country. It’s an important tradition in which I consider it a privilege to participate. Many feel this way, and the scene at the ballpark made that manifest.

We arrived at the stadium early in order to partake in the smorgasbord of ballpark food. The atmosphere was mild, but building. As game-time approached, the crowd noise increased to a cacophony of laughter, cheer, and conversation. When so many are preoccupied it can be difficult to grasp their attention. However, the start of our patriotic melody has the ability to turn heads, and silence voices almost immediately. The famous string of notes began to play and people stood, ball caps were removed, phones were put away, and hearts were covered with the right hand. Everyone turned to the flag in remembrance of our nation, and the brave warriors who have died protecting the matchless freedom it offers. Even small children, with their heads held high in national pride, imitated their fathers and mothers as all paid respect to the land of the free, and the home of the brave. This respect for nation is admirable to say the least. However, as I took in the atmosphere I couldn’t help but remember the line we recite in our nation’s pledge – “One nation, under God.” There was a noticeable inconsistency with that concept, and the scene before me.

While everyone was conscious of the need to pay respect to the country that has given them so much, they were neglecting to reverence God who has given them everything. Many of the conversations that ceased at the sound of the anthem were unequivocally laced with profanity. The clothes people were wearing were immodest. The drinks they sat down were alcoholic. And most likely the majority of the crowd had no plans to gather to worship their Creator the following Sunday morning. This is nothing out of the ordinary, but that is the reason it is so alarming. “One nation, under God” has quickly become “One nation, above God.”

When our national pride eclipses our godly fear there is a titanic problem. God has created us to “fear [Him] and keep His commandments” (Ecclesiastes 12:13). We rightly offer up thanksgiving to Him regularly for the freedom we have to serve Him without fear of copious persecution. Logically, we must remember it is God who provides such freedom, not the country – “For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God” (Romans 13:1). When country comes before God we miss the point. Our liberties we have in America are made vain when use them as vices, and not as advantages to further please God.

Furthermore, when our concerns about political topics transcend our concerns about dangers facing the church we mimic this behavior. It is not out of place to be involved in our civil duties, and we need to make “supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks…for all men, for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence” (1 Timothy 2:1-2). However, there is an imbalance when our conversations are laden with complaints and concerns about inconsistencies in our government, and spiritual topics sit on the backburner waiting for Sunday. Paul wrote about the many difficulties he had while preaching the Gospel, many of which were inflicted by governing authorities, yet He wrote, “besides the other things, what comes upon me daily: my deep concern for all the churches” (2 Corinthians 11:28). Spiritual matters were always at the forefront of his mind. His God was certainly before his country. His God was before everything.

As we live from day to day let us not forget our purpose, and the true importance of everyday life. We must constantly review our priorities to ensure pleasing God is the pinnacle. It is certain the day will come when “every knee shall bow” (Romans 14:11), and regret will fill the hearts of the majority. Let us choose to bow in reverence and godly fear now, while it is a matter of free-will.

By Jeremiah Cox August 25, 2015

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