I can’t wait for the Olympics to start in 3 1/2 weeks. To sit on the couch next to my kids and cheer on the good ol’ US of A! It is a special treat that so many of us take in every 4 years.
I am extremely grateful for the country we live in. For the unequaled freedoms we get to enjoy. And for the amazing opportunities to dream the impossible dreams and know that they can actually come true.
However, these blessings are not free. Yes, there is a tremendous price for our freedom that our military men and women defend every day. And for that, I am humbled and honored. But there is another cost that we pay, without even noticing most times.
Because of the riches we enjoy, the independence we exercise and the freedoms we take for granted – we are so very often left with an Americanized viewpoint to our relationship with God. We assume that being blessed by God means that we will be financially affluent and never have to worry about our retirement. We function as if God’s greatest goal for us is our individual pursuit of happiness. So much so that if these things are threatened, we wonder if we have somehow stepped outside of God’s will or if he even exists at all! The end result of this is that for us – American Christians – following Jesus places God in the role of serving us, rather than us serving him and the picture of authentic Christianity is greatly distorted.
In addition to this, we have often tied our patriotism to our Christianity. This is done so much that the two are inseparable for most people. We tend to function as if standing for Christ is standing for America. This is so large that for some, America is often viewed as God’s chosen nation, even the “new Israel.”
We need to be really challenged here. We need to step back and ask some hard questions, questions that could make us uncomfortable. Consider for a moment: What does it really mean for this to not be our home? For us to be citizens of a kingdom of God more than citizens of America? What do we do when they are in conflict? When our political issues and stances are not God-honoring? When our international policies go directly against the heart of God?
Should we be surprised when this happens? Is our country really a Christian nation? Or are we a secular, worldly country that has the Kingdom of God growing inside it?
What would our advice be to our Christian brothers and sisters in China – where Christianity is illegal? Would we encourage them to declare their allegiance to their country or our God? How about our brothers and sisters who come to Christ in Muslim countries? Where they literally have to choose between country/family and Christ. We hear these stories about the persecuted church, pause for a moment and then continue on our day. But what about us? What are we choosing between? Do we consciously put ourselves in a position to choose Christ or do we simply accept the standards and values of our country – assuming that everything is fine?
What would happen inside us if we realized that every nation on this earth is deeply damaged and broken without Christ? Including America! What if we expected the heart of God that is growing inside us to be challenged by our culture? What if we turned on the TV, ready for battle? What if we measured everything on the scale of God’s heart instead of whether or not it is a normal American experience?
I’m not surprised or even threatened when prayer is removed from the schools or the 10 commandments are taken out of the courthouse. I have actually come to expect it. My goal is not to get our country’s policies to reflect Christ but to lead our people in this country to become his followers. If this happens, then even if our country declares Christianity illegal, his Kingdom will reign, his church will thrive and his people will be transformed.