Patriotism And Christian Faith

Since that fateful day of September 11, 2001, there has been a marked change in the display of American patriotism. One telling figure (seen in a recent Time magazine) was the fact that Wal-Mart stores sold 6,400 American flags nationwide on September 11, 2000, and 116,000 on the same date this year. The cowardly deeds that ended the lives of many thousands that day served to unite many Americans in their patriotism (def. devoted love, support, and defense of one's country), though I am sure that was not the intended result. More than any other time in my life, I have seen the red, white, and blue symbol of our country being flown and waved proudly by people that seemed apathetic only weeks ago.

People are volunteering their time, money, and efforts in measures I have never seen in my 38 years. People are driving (not flying just yet) across the country to offer their assistance and expertise in the efforts to clean up the destruction and possibly aid in the rescue of survivors. People who cannot go are doing what they can by participating in local fund-raisers established to assist those same people. Citizens worldwide are even offering money to aid in the relief of survivors and victims' families. People who lived next to each other for years but never talked to one another are now acting as if they really consider each other their best friends. Travelers are being offered assistance in ways they could not have imagined only a few weeks ago — and this by complete strangers.

Another result of this national tragedy seems to be the virtual cessation of whining and complaining by those who have spent most of their time and efforts in the pursuit of the elimination of God's name in public places. Now, we hear public prayers offered up — by government officials, no less — in numbers not seen in literally decades in this country. Some churches have stated that people are coming to their assemblies in numbers usually only seen around Easter and Christmas (which is a sad statement in itself). Temporarily, at least, people are reminded that God is not dead, and some are actually looking for comfort and assurance that someone greater is watching over it all.

But only so far.

If you are one of the many who are now turning to God, are you seeking the God of the Bible? Or, are you seeking the god of comfort and ease — the god of life-as-it-was? If you are making some kind of effort to "go to church" and hear what the preachers are saying, are you expecting to hear only words meant for temporary comfort — or eternal peace? Are you willing to hear that you should prepare for your own judgment lest your own "last day" come upon you without warning as it did for many that mournful day? If you are one who does not normally show interest in spiritual matters, will you berate the one who would preach the pure word of God, seeing it only as a narrow message that excludes "last minute" conversions? Are you willing to hear the truth?

If you are one who, because of the recent events, is now searching for some answers to life, and have maybe been stirred to patriotic fervor, my hope is that you are stirred to more than just nationalistic loyalty — my hope is that you begin following God. You see, God's will is infinitely more important than even our own Constitution. That's right. You read it right: there is something more important than our own Constitution — God's will. Our Constitution was established to govern this country and provide for the rights of its citizens, but the will of God has been eternally established for the well-being of all of mankind, though men continuously refuse to see the immeasurable good contained within.

Surely you have heard, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16) But what does that mean? It means that in spite of who we were (sinners and His own enemies, Rom. 5:6-8), He still loved us and did not turn away from providing the means of forgiveness that we might have eternal life. He wants no man to perish (2 Pet. 3:9), especially you. Salvation, peace, and lasting comfort do not come through patriotic fervor and flag-waving, but through obedience and faithfulness to the will of Jesus Christ. If recent events have caused you to start wondering why there is so much evil in the world, or even what life is all about, I urge you to seek comfort in God and not in our government officials or our modern military. Instead of immersing yourself in the red, white, and blue, I urge you to be immersed in baptism, having your sins washed away by the blood of Jesus Christ and finding the peace that surpasses all — something that cannot be found in cruise missiles and highly-trained military forces, in wearing the red, white, and blue, or when singing "God Bless America."

And to those of you who are already Christians, I urge you to put forth the same amount of effort in teaching others about Jesus Christ that many are now putting forth in talking about recent events. I urge you to donate your time, money, and effort to the same degree many are putting forth in the relief efforts. I urge you to show your devotion to Jesus Christ to the same degree many are expressing their devotion to these United States in patriotic songs, the wearing of our national colors, and in the defense and support of all things having to do with this nation. Actually, we should be doing more than this, for the souls of the unbelieving are of infinitely more importance than their dedication and devotion to the American way of life.

[Side note: Why is it that some Christians I know — some who are now adamantly patriotic and now boldly display symbols of the good old USA on everything possible — simultaneously condemn brethren who have religious teachings or even the name of their Lord displayed just as boldly or sometimes even discreetly? Just wondering.]

Whatever your background and to whatever extent you are affected by the recent events, my aim in this short article is to encourage you to get your priorities straight. I am a proud American, but I am a Christian first and foremost. Though it is difficult to imagine or even say, I will put my Lord above my own country if that day should come — without blinking an eye — because I will be judged in the end by my faith in Christ, not by my patriotism.

By Steven Harper, September 23, 2001

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