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God Trumps Country: Reflections on Citizenship

Dear Christians of America,

I am one of you. This letter is not a criticism from a third party looking in. I do not find joy in exposing our flaws. I am a follower of Christ. Also, this letter is not meant to condemn the whole. Instead, I hope to bring light to a damaging disconnect in the general culture. I see many Christians holding fast to the truth, even when it costs everything. At the same time, my heart is heavy as I watch others who speak God’s name simultaneously contradict His commands. I am not here to judge, but to appeal to all of us. We must sacrifice the many idols in American culture and remember the greatest commands the Lord has given us:

“‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’” (Matthew 22: 37-39 ESV)

This commandment was born out of God’s great love for us. A love that led to the sacrifice of His own son to pay the debt of the human race. It was not an advantageous love, but a costly one. God handed over His only son and Christ relinquished all comfort and security to save a rebellious world.

It is easy in our privileged country to expect comfort and security. We idolize it, because it is a promise of the American dream. For too long parts of the church have tried to fit the Gospel into the American dream. This is impossible because the two embody and worship different things. (For more on this topic, read my previous post The Dangers of American Individualism or check out David Platt’s book Radical). When we pretend the two can exist in unity, we risk replacing God’s truth for the more comfortable ideas of privileged America. We choose what benefits us and we become hypocrites. We cannot worship our Lord in one breath and look away from our neighbor, crying out in anguish, in the next. God does not command us to follow His law of love when it is convenient, comfortable, or aligns with our political views. He calls us to follow it in spite of these things, because our hearts are deceitful. These wicked hearts allow us to dehumanize others, rationalize separation of families, and close borders to our bleeding neighbors. We must remember our identity and deny ourselves (Matthew 16:24). In light of recent events and the continuous corruption in our country, now more than ever we must align ourselves with the true king and remember whose we are.

We are children of God before we are Americans

“But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God” (John 1:12 ESV)

Remember who you belong to! We may be born as American citizens or adopted into this country, but our citizenship on earth is temporary. We are visitors in this world, called to work tirelessly doing God’s will. Our true citizenship is in heaven. Our hope waits for a day when we leave this broken world and enter a new reconciled life— free from brokenness, corruption, and sin. We can work and not be discouraged, because we know that God is currently at work and will ultimately restore the whole earth. Any time we value our status as an American over our identity in Christ, we sin. Unfortunately, that sin does not only affect us, but is also a reflection on God’s church. The entitlement and selfishness of the American people goes against what God has called us to do. We must deny ourselves and follow Christ. We must push the stars and stripes aside and ensure that we love our neighbor even if we think it will compromise our economy, safety, or comfort.

God does not align with a particular political party

God does not belong to or endorse any political party. However, again and again, political figures lure believers into their platforms with “religious” promises. They twist biblical ideas into campaign fuel. If we are not confident in God’s word, we can easily be mislead. We must be wary of voting for someone, simply because they claim to follow Christ. Be sure to look at the fruit they bear.

“‘Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits. Grapes are not gathered from thorn bushes nor figs from thistles, are they? So every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, nor can a bad tree produce good fruit.’” (Matthew 7: 15-19 ESV)

Just like our status as Americans, our connections to political parties should not compromise our identity as children of God. Voting is an important privilege. However, we mustn’t deceive ourselves into thinking that we are electing a savior. Christ is our savior. Anyone else is bound to disappoint. Fortunately, our God is bigger than our government and cannot be subdued by it. If we belong to Him, our mission cannot fail. Even when we cannot see the fruits of our labor, God is working. We must uphold His commands to love and spread truth despite the current political climate. When our political system fails us, we find hope knowing God has authority over our Presidents.

We are not called to a life of comfort

Following Christ does not promise an easy life. In fact, most of the apostles were crucified or murdered for spreading the Gospel. They lived their lives on the run or incarcerated. A lot of Paul’s ministry occurred through letters written in prison. If these models of discipleship involved suffering, we too can expect to suffer for God’s glory.

This is especially hard for Americans to swallow. We are so privileged in this nation, that the slightest discomfort causes us to spiral. An incorrect coffee order or slow internet connection can throw off our whole day. We joke about “first world problems,” but they reveal something dark and broken within us. Our entitled attitude for a convenient lifestyle is blinding us to those calling out in anguish. We mistakenly believe that we are the reason for our many blessings and dismiss others in need. In reality, God is the source of all our blessings. God gives these blessings freely and not in accordance with our behavior or obedience. Therefore, we are called to be generous, the way God is generous with us. Even if giving hurts us, God commands us to do so:

“If among you, one of your brothers should become poor, in any of your towns within your land that the Lord your God is giving you, you shall not harden your heart or shut your hand against your poor brother, but you shall open your hand to him and lend him sufficient for his need, whatever it may be.” (Deuteronomy 15:7-8)

We must asks ourselves, “are we living with open hands, ready to help those in need?”

We must be Biblically literate to uphold the truth

On the whole, we are a biblically illiterate nation. I believe this is the biggest reason that false Gospels are being spread in our nation and true followers of Christ are being led astray. We may desire to follow God, but we cannot do so unless we study His word and write those truths on our hearts. The word is an immeasurable gift . It is a window into God’s character and His promises to us. It is also a place where God physically meets us to communicate and shape us. We cannot ignore it! If we do not know and embody the truths on these sacred pages, then we cannot truly follow Christ. Instead we are creating a religion of our own liking, shaped by the whims of our selfish desires. Consuming truth allows us to ignore the lies of the world and ground ourselves in what we believe.

“Then we will no longer be little children, tossed by the waves and blown around by every kind of teaching, by human cunning with cleverness in the techniques of deceit.” (Ephesians 4:14 ESV)

If we do not know the word, then we will easily bend to our desires for comfort and an easy life. We will be susceptible to those who take God’s word out of context to fit their will. We must be prepared to fight the lies of this world. We must practice the truth we proclaim. Unfortunately, we are much better at building walls and installing security systems than we are at inviting people in and giving generously. We would rather chip away at the foundation of our faith than give up the comfort we’ve become accustomed to. This gradual choice is leading us astray. We cannot ignore God’s commands any longer, we must remember where He places value. We must reach out to our neighbors in need.

‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’ (Matthew 25: 33-40 ESV)

This verse says that every act of generosity toward someone in need, is an act of kindness toward our God. That is how deeply He loves us. When the least is provided for, the Father is also. Our neighbors domestically and internationally are crying out for help. There is suffering in countless forms aching to be healed through unconditional love— people begging for asylum, families desperate to be reunited, and refugees starving in the throes of civil war. How much longer will we turn a blind eye toward those in need?

America is the richest nation in the world. According to a Forbes article on American wealth, “the typical person in the bottom 5 percent of the American income distribution is still richer than 68 percent of the world’s inhabitants.” That is indescribable wealth. We are in unique position to be generous to those who are hurting. And yet, we are so quick to lock our doors and sew up our pockets to avoid helping others. No wonder Jesus claimed that it was easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. Pride and selfishness often accompany wealth. Even more dangerous is the fear of losing it all. We cling so tightly to temporary things, when God is offering us so much more.

And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever. (1 John 2:17 ESV)

It may not be comfortable or easy, but it is our duty to give. We must be diligent in writing God’s commands on our affluent hearts, so our selfish desire to horde our blessings will not win. It is time to reclaim the truth and watch how God multiplies our obedience. Our generosity in opening our borders, homes, and wallets does not just help our brothers and sisters in need, but it humbles our stubborn hearts. It shapes us a little more into the people God created us to be. May we be a people living together in harmony, never hesitant to offer a helping hand to anyone in need.

May the God of the universe multiply our humble generosity,

A servant of the Lord

 

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