Patriotism and Jesus
“We are a nation under God, so we have to put the U.S. flag in front of church.” “God looks with special favor on our country because our country was founded on Christian principles.” With these sentiments, we can unknowingly introduce a false idea of Jesus into our conversations about patriotism. While Jesus certainly cares about and ultimately controls the nations of the earth, his primary concern is the salvation of each individual soul. Yet we also don’t completely divest Jesus from country with the idea that you can either honor him or your country, but not both.
The religious leaders tried to trick Jesus with a similar argument. They asked him if they should pay taxes to Caesar or give the money to God. The answer was to give to God and give to Caesar as well. The religious leaders thought Jesus would surely object to anything having to do with Caesar. But he showed that you can honor and respect both. Sometimes we see Jesus and our faith so closely connected to a party or a nation’s ideals that we surmise falsely that Jesus supports one group or nation over others. This makes Jesus into a national patriot. He becomes a political agent for independence, individualism, freedom of choice, democracy, capitalism, etc. The national patriot becomes a fighter (at least in our minds) for justice and fairness in social issues. Sadly this can overshadow the true need for his death, crucifixion, resurrection and forgiveness.
To avoid the blurring of the Church into the political world let’s review both kingdoms. We are not to rip down those who desire to have a flag in front of church or prayer in public schools or the Ten Commandments in court houses. Rather we want everyone to understand the distinction of the two kingdoms in which we live. When we view the two kingdoms properly, we see the true Jesus and his rule over both kingdoms.
We have been blessed with men and women who have bravely laid down their lives to protect our freedom and order of our country. God has given our country a government which has protected our lives with laws and order. Our government is an agent whom God uses to bless us. Within this worldly kingdom our God has called us into his spiritual kingdom. God has come to us through the means of grace, the gospel in the Word and sacraments, to save us. The true Jesus dealt with the big problem of sin for the whole world. His solution was to give his life on the cross to pay for the sins of the world. God’s kingdom, his rule in our hearts by faith, is not restrained by a nation’s boundaries or its laws (whether they are favorable or unfavorable for believers). Rather, we find God’s kingdom wherever we find God’s Word. We give thanks that God’s word is found in many places in our country, especially our local church.
As Christians, we live as dual citizens. We live in America and in God’s eternal kingdom. What a joy that we are able to live harmoniously in both kingdoms. Give thanks to God that you are a citizen of America and a citizen of God’s kingdom.
Yours in Christ,
Pastor Peter Sulzle