Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Patriot Prince?

This post requires a prefaced disclaimer. Let there be no misunderstanding that I consider myself blessed to have been born in this country. But I count myself as a Follower of Christ first and would be willing to renounce my "citizenship" in the US before I would ever renounce my allegiance to God's Messiah.

In the early 90s, punk rock group Bad Religion released the song "American Jesus." Although, I do not totally align with the political mind-set of the group, I can clearly understand the frustration they communicate through the lyrics of the song.
I don't need to be a global citizen,
'Cause I'm blessed by nationality,
I'm a member of a growing populace,
We enforce our popularity
There are things that seem to pull us under and
There are things that drag us down,
But there's a power and a vital presence
That's lurking all around

We've got the American Jesus
See him on the interstate,
We've got the American Jesus
He helped build the president's estate

I feel sorry for the earth's population
'Cause so few live in the U.S.A,
At least the foreigners can copy our morality,
They can visit but they cannot stay,
Only precious few can garner our prosperity,
It makes us walk with renewed confidence,
We've got a place to go when we die
And the architect resides right here

We've got the American Jesus
Bolstering national faith
We've got the American Jesus
Overwhelming millions every day

He's the farmers' barren fields, (In God)
He's the force the army wields, (We trust)
He's the expression on the faces of the starving millions, (Because he's one of us)
The power of the man. (Break down)
He's the fuel that drives the Klan, (Cave in)
He's the motive and the conscience of the murderer (He can redeem your sin)
He's the preacher on TV, (Strong heart)
He's the false sincerity, (Clear mind)
He's the form letter that's written by the big computer, (And infinitely kind)
He's the nuclear bombs, (You lose)
He's the kids with no moms (We win)
And I'm fearful that he's inside ME (He is our champion)

We've got the American Jesus
See him on the interstate
We've got the American Jesus
Exercising his authority
We've got the American Jesus
Bolstering National faith
We've got the American Jesus
Overwhelming millions every day

One nation under God(x10)
Many of the American expression of Christian faith will convey a concern about the "watering down" of the principles and message of God. These are often the very same folks who think 2 Chronicles 7:14 directly applies to the United States of America. In case you don't recall the verse(which is actually the middle of a sentence), it goes like this:
"if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land."
"Land" is interpreted to mean a sovereign nation - particularly The United States of America - by many of those who are concerned about the "watering down" of God's principles.

The context of the entire chapter has to do with the existence of the temple and the monarchy in Israel - neither of which remain today.

One may be tempted to say that this fact buttresses the point. Think before you are tempted to make such a correlation. It was the faithfulness and love of God alone that maintained his chosen people to the point of God's own entering into the realm of humanity (through Jesus Christ) without a temple and a king. The United States of America is a byproduct of the grace and freedom ushered into the realm of humanity - far, far down the line of the historical infection of the good news. There are no reference points or distinguishable borders that hinder the spread (e.g. Ethiopian eunuch, Cornelius, Lydia...) which brings about pure freedom to all who believe.

If I look for a particular city on Google maps, I have many reference points to use. The major points are the distinguishable borders established by states. When I happen to fly across the country, I often look down to see if I can identify the major US metropolitan areas. The only reference point I have may be a river or a mountain range (the very ones that ran and stood alone for many millennia). I can hardly determine where Colorado ends and Kansas begins. No one has painted distinguishable lines (yet).

Each time I have this experience of looking down upon the vital resource of the earth, I imagine God looking down and not seeing the distinguishable limitations that plague us. Yet we hold high the banner of "freedom" in our nation.

What is ultimate freedom? Is it not the breakdown of limitations and distinctions? Isn't that what Paul taught in Galatians 3:21-29?
"Is the law, therefore, opposed to the promises of God? Absolutely not! For if a law had been given that could impart life, then righteousness would certainly have come by the law. But the Scripture declares that the whole world is a prisoner of sin, so that what was promised, being given through faith in Jesus Christ, might be given to those who believe.
 Before this faith came, we were held prisoners by the law, locked up until faith should be revealed. So the law was put in charge to lead us to Christ that we might be justified by faith. Now that faith has come, we are no longer under the supervision of the law.
So what makes many "Americans" equate citizenry in the nation on equal par with following Christ? Does God's Anointed wear an American flag lapel pin? How can one treat the stars and stripes with such a lofty reverence when it represents such a large distinguishable sovereign state? We are the most free nation on the face of the earth, but we are far from being the humblest. Do we realize that it really wasn't that long ago that we crashed the borders here and now are fortifying them? We broke undocumented laws to establish and vote on ones that we like.

Many fear the breakdown of our nation due to the loss of morality. Its demise is undeniable and the lack of discipline and pure standards distresses me. But we suffer the same self righteousness of the Pharisees as we conveniently look to the darkness of others and utter pronouncements rather than look within ourselves and see the same chaos that nailed Christ to the tree.

What does God see in America that he didn't see with Babylon or Rome or any powerful nation that has ever existed? God sees that same darkness and chaos that prompted him to be born into our midst (God so loved the world) and defeat the destiny that he himself traveled and defeated for our ultimate freedom.

The call of 2 Chronicles 7 is universal. "Land" comes from a Hebrew word that can also be translated as "world." That's the place where we all live; the one God looks down upon and sees no distinguishable markings.
The grace of our Lord was poured out on me abundantly, along with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus. Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst. But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his unlimited patience as an example for those who would believe on him and receive eternal life.  ~ 1 Timothy 1:14-16

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