And they sang a new song, saying, “You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased for God persons from every tribe and language and people and nation.” Revelation 5:9
Not Of This World
“…persons from every tribe and language and people and nation,” they sang. And Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world.” So patriotism is out right? I mean, Jesus died for every nation so, God doesn’t play favorites. He doesn’t put our country at the top of His list of nations and say, Yeah, they’re the ones to root for, they’re who I favor in the world, so you should favor that nation too. No, He doesn’t say that. So patriotism is out, right?
Some people see it that way. But what do we find in scripture?
Joseph In Egypt
You know, what I notice in scripture are God’s people bearing fruit wherever they find themselves. Joseph was sold to Potiphar, a high ranking military official in Egypt. And what did he do when he was there? He worked as hard as he possibly could to bring success to his master’s house. Then he was wrongly accused of rape and thrown in prison. Did he fight for legislation to improve the judicial process of the Egyptian government? Although it wouldn’t have been wrong to do so, no, he didn’t do that. Instead he did everything he could to make the jail run as well as possible. Then after he was pardoned he did everything he could to ensure the success and prosperity of Egypt. And you can bet the Egyptian government wasn’t perfect. And the Egyptians didn’t follow the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob either. But Joseph didn’t focus on those things, he bore fruit wherever he found himself, and he found himself in Egypt. (Genesis Chapters 39-41)
Daniel In Babylon
Daniel was taken as a prisoner of war and carried back to Babylon. They demanded that his friends worship the king as a god. When his friends refused they threw them in the furnace. When he went to work for the Babylonian government, a group of his colleagues tried to have him executed. The Babylonian government was a dictatorship that was flawed and had serious problems with corruption. And the nation of Babylon didn’t follow Daniel’s God. But Daniel didn’t focus on those problems, he did everything he could to ensure the success of Babylon. (The Book of Daniel)
You In Your Country
There are other examples in scripture as well that make me think that what we’re supposed to do is to bless the organizations God puts us in. Our family, our class, our school, our workplace, our city–and yes–our country. If Joseph and Daniel could show patriotism for the dictatorships of Egypt and Babylon, you can be patriotic for your nation.
I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people–for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. 1 Timothy 2:1-2
You and Your God
When Jesus was confronted by the Pharisees and the Herodians about whether or not the Jews should pay taxes, Jesus tells them to show him a denarius. So we still have these things around today, these denariuses (or denarii, if you like). And we know what was on that coin was the image of Tiberius Caesar. So Jesus asks them, Whose image is on the coin?
Caesar’s, they answer.
“Then give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s,” Jesus said. (Luke 20:20-26)
So the coin made in Caesar’s image is to be given to Caesar. And you, and I, who are made in God’s image, are to be given to God. So yes, it’s good to be a patriot. It’s good to be enthusiastic for and helpful to our country (in a godly way), as long as our passion for patriotism doesn’t become primary and take the place where God belongs.
Give yourself to the One in whose image you’re made. Give yourself to God. Seek Him first. You will find him if you seek him with all your heart and with all your soul. (Deuteronomy 4:29)
Amy E. Black, Beyond Left and Right: Helping Christians Make Sense of American Politics, Baker Books, 2008
[Image via Arnie Bracy – Creative Commons]