Yesterday I got a card in the mail inviting me to a new churchplant to celebrate our country's birth and independence day celebration. It struck me a bit odd that this new church would pick this weekend to send out a mailer inviting people to attend. For the obvious reason that a lot of people leave town, but bigger is the confusion that comes with trying to mix our faith with our allegience to our country.
But, in further reflection I remembered a sermon that I preached a couple of years ago on July 4th entitled "Our Citizenship is in Heaven." I thought it was important to remember that our first allegiance is not to our country but to the One who created this country: the One True God!
I think that this distinction is really important because when we begin to mix our faith with our patriotism the message of Jesus gets blurred. Jesus priorities never included getting elected or reigning on an earthly throne, but there were many around him who thought that was his goal.
I am comforted by the fact that even after all the disciples experienced with Jesus, they still didn't get it when Jesus was ready to ascend into heaven. They still asked him the question, "Lord, are you going to restore Israel now?" He had, but not on earth, and not through the political or military process. So, if at times we don't get what's happening, we have good company!
I also remember that historically the first 3 centuries of Christianity were really the church at it's best, when it was illegal and hidden. People were caring for one another to such an extent that people became saved because they liked what they saw taking place. Everything began to shift, however, when Christianity became the state religion.
We are blessed but also challenged by our political freedom. It is easy to take our faith for granted and expect that we will always have the privilege to live it out without interference. But, I look at China where it costs them something to live out their faith and I see a maturity and willingness to sacrifice, and I wonder what it would look like to Americans to live that way.
I love the 4th because it's a fun holiday but I always remember that my first allegiance is to Jesus and his kingdom come on earth. May we live as citizens of the King!