I’ll never forget visiting the National Archives in Washington D.C. and seeing the Declaration of Independence. We were told that if anyone came within two feet of that glass enclosed document, it would immediately descend into a vault able to withstand a direct nuclear strike. I thought that was so cool; but not as cool as what is arguably the most concise and elegant text ever written to declare the ideals of equality, liberty, and popular rule. That experience made me feel patriotic, but so does flying my flag on the 4th of July or standing at the National Anthem. Even so, I applaud those like 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick who has chosen to kneel rather than stand for the National Anthem as an act of civil protest. There are democratic principles more enshrined than saluting the flag, and freedom of speech is certainly one of them.
I think that most Americans probably love their country, but as Christians we must also know that Scripture knows no favored nation; and that although God has chosen to work through particular peoples at particular times, God does not care about any one particular people more than any other. In fact, those nations that we would vote “most unfavorable” are those for whom God probably has the deepest concern (see Jonah 4:11). Listen again to the call of God’s Servant in Isaiah 49:6 - “I will give you as a light to the nations, that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth.”
Friends, in this divisive political season where our patriotism is regularly challenged in one way or the other, I try to remember the words of James Madison (4th US President) who said that “Before any man can be considered as a member of civil society, he must be considered as a subject of the governor of the universe.” To put it another way, when we enter the church we enter a sovereign embassy of the kingdom of God – a kingdom which rivals all other loyalties, even that of our own beloved country. T.D. Jakes said, “We limit ourselves to a tribal perspective when we have a global God.” There is a time to be tribal and patriotic…but as Jesus’ followers we stand first before the Lord of the Universe, who desires all peoples to know his justice, love, and saving grace.