These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. If they had been thinking of that land from which they had gone out, they would have had opportunity to return. But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city (Heb. 11:13-16).
Driving home from the work the other day, I spotted a bumper sticker on the back of some man’s truck which said in essence, “God gives freedom to those who are willing to die to protect it.” This sticker echoes the sentiment of many who call themselves Christians in America, who love their country dearly and who have gone to fight or have sent sons or daughters to fight for the sake of this country. And, on the surface, our freedom is a great gift accomplished by those who were willing to die for their country, for because of their sacrifice, we live in relative freedom and from fear of attack and persecution.
However, the worldly freedom that we as American Christians enjoy has had an ill-effect upon the church. For we find in the American church a pride in country and freedom that is a poor testimony to where our true Land resides. This unhealthy pride is demonstrated by several characteristics of American Christianity:
First, it is demonstrated in the American church’s involvement in the politics of this nation. And I am not speaking of William Wilberforce-like politics where Christians openly denounce the wicked practices of a their country (in Wilberforce’s case, the British slave trade), but we find in the American church those who are consumed by every aspect of American politics, be it education, taxes, legislation, or what have you. And in the midst of their political involvement, American Christians have come to identify themselves with a particular political party (viz. the Republican party) and unabashedly herald their alignment to the world.
Thus, we have in America two parties, the one with which Christians align themselves and the one which they do not. And it is not as though that political alignment rests solely upon one issue (e.g. abortion), but it is upon all spheres of legislation and American life. Therefore you find that many who call themselves Christians are more likely lambast particular persons based solely upon their political alignment rather than pine for all those, without respect for political theory, who live in this country apart from Christ. It is a characteristic of American Christianity that makes the religion more about political activism than about Gospel activism.
Because of this outspoken political dimension of American Christianity, the American church has testified for decades that its greatest hope is in this country and in this world rather than in the One to come. For you will find among American Christians those who are just as passionate about the global warming debate and capitalism as they are about abortion and other injustices. We, because of our concern for these passing issues, have declared loudly and proudly that our lives are invested in this age rather than rendering to Caesar what is Caesar’s and testifying by our lives that we are but aliens in this land.
Secondly, our pride in country has destroyed our passion for the Nations. For we who are American Christians tend to be more bent on identifying ourselves as Americans than we are on identifying ourselves as Christians. Therefore, we have little or no regard for rest of the world and particularly for our brothers and sisters in Christ who suffer in other parts of the world.
We demonstrate this lack of concern for the Nations by the way in which we live our lives. For we look upon our present state as a wealthy country as our own accomplishment and as own “inalienable right,” and, therefore, we look upon the rest of the world with contempt, because they have not helped themselves in the same way that we have helped ourselves. And rather than looking at our present wealth as a God-given stewardship that is to be used to demonstrate to the world that Christ is our Inheritance and using that wealth for the aid of the saints in the world and for the proclamation of the Gospel, we lavish our wealth upon ourselves, because we have earned it. For this reason, our concern in the American church is not our Promised Rest in the Age to come, but it is our retirement funds and accumulation of security in this present age. Therefore, we, rather than having hearts of liberality as did the Macedonians spoken of in 2 Corinthians 8, we have miserly hearts that are much more interested in building bigger barns for ourselves thereby neglecting the Nations.
Thirdly, our unhealthy pride in country it is demonstrated in the complacent way in which we live our lives. Rather than pursuing hard after godliness and being set apart from the world, we are much rather inclined to be, despite the apostle’s exhortation in Romans 12, conformed to the world rather than transformed by the renewal of our minds. For this reason and this reason alone, we find in the American church innumerable divisions. For rather than holding fast to the Scriptures’ declarations and conforming our lives to them, we seek to conform the Scriptures to our own particular philosophical and political views. We, because of the freedom in which we boast, live lives apart from persecution that allow us to live and believe whatever we want concerning Christianity without the threat of worldly recompense.
However, there will be recompense one Day. For there will come a Judgment where all the secrets of men’s hearts will be laid before the Judge, King Jesus, and “he will render to each one according to his works; to those who by patience and well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life; but for those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, there will be wrath and fury” (Rm. 2:6-8).
The question that you must ask yourself today, you who call yourself an American Christian, is “Where is your hope and joy?” Is your hope and joy found in a petty country that will one day be wiped off the face of the earth, or is you hope in a future Land where Jesus Christ is King and will reign in peace forever? And what is the testimony of your life? Is your life a testimony to your love for the United States of America, or is it a testimony to your love for Jesus Christ? I exhort you, brothers and sisters, to celebrate this Fourth of July in a manner that demonstrates to the world that your hope is not in this land, but it is in the Promised Land to come.