A Fourth of July Thought on the Downside of Patriotism

[From the archives.]

Soon after I became a Christian I had a conversation with a youth pastor. July Fourth was coming up and he said that he thought patriotism was very Godly. I asked, “What about citizens in Nazi Germany?”

“Ummm … so maybe not always,” he said.

I said, “Maybe not always even here in the United States.”

Dual Citizenship

Don’t get me wrong. I know I am blessed to live here, and that there are a lot of worse places to live in this world. I’m glad to be an American with all the privileges and responsibilities that go with citizenship. On top of that, it’s biblical to be under the authority of earthly rulers. (See, for example, Mark 12:13-17, Romans 13:1-7 and Titus 3:1.)

But we should not think that this is the ultimate good. As Jesus told Pilate when facing earthly judgment:

My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jewish leaders. But now my kingdom is from another place. (John 18:36.)

Paul later explained that those who belong to Jesus share citizenship in heaven with our Savior. (Philippians 3:20.) That is good news for us all, and it gets even better.

Look again at Jesus’ statement to Pilate. Did you notice that word “now”? “But now,” he said, “my kingdom is from another place.” Jesus qualified his statement because in the future he’s going to bring heaven and earth together into a single kingdom:

The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Messiah, and he will reign for ever and ever. (Revelation 11:15.)

So it turns out we can love our earthly home eternally and above all others. And it’s all because of Jesus.

***

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2 Responses to A Fourth of July Thought on the Downside of Patriotism

  1. James Williams says:

    Good post, with one suggested qualification:
    Patriotism could be a good thing in Nazi Germany if it was for Germany and against Nazism. Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s brother-in-law described their plot to assassinate Hitler as fighting on behalf of the true Germany, the real Germany. It’s a bit Platonist, but no community can exist without borrowing from some good thing God has created. Just as there is no “pure evil” (a contradiction in terms), there is no purely evil community. In some sense, evil will always be contrary to the common good, and thus patriotism in its purer forms could always be a virtue.

    • Tim says:

      Good distinction. James. I was just reading about a more recent event when some protestors were being arrested outside a courthouse and one of them yelled, “This is how I fight for my country!” Bonhoeffer certainly did so.

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