45. DID YOU EVER STOP TO THINK THAT JESUS WAS NOT AN AMERICAN?

THE FOURTH OF July and the first day of the week have in common that both celebrate a great past event and that both are willingly observed. There is also this important difference: July 4th looks backward — to the signing of the Declaration of Independence. The first day of the week looks not only backward — to the resurrection of Jesus Christ, but forward — to His return. One is Independence Day. The other is the Lord’s Day. Man’s holidays can only remember. God’s holiday remembers and promises more.

There is also this difference between the two. Our Fourth of July is not meaningful to any person on earth who is not concerned with American freedom. The Lord’s Day is observed with gratitude and joy throughout the earth. Around the world Christians of “every people and tongue and tribe and nation” gather on that day to remember Christ’s death and resurrection, and to be reminded that He is coming again to unite them all in a glorious and eternal company.

All of which leads to this: Christianity is not American. Or to say it another way, Americanism is not Christianity. Men lived and died under the cross of Christ for almost 18 centuries before the United States of America began. If the world outlasts the U.S.A., so will the religion of Christ. Christianity does not wear a “Made in America” label.

Because we are citizens of the United States, we have a Christian duty to pray for her officials (I Timothy 2: 2,3). We are obligated to pay taxes (Romans 13:6,7). We must be subject to proper authorities so long as this is harmonious with Higher Orders (I Peter 2:13-16). Christians who live in other countries have the same relationship to their government whether in Chile, China, Russia or Rhodesia.

Our mission is to proclaim a Savior, not to preach Uncle Sam. As the church of the Lord Jesus Christ, we are to oppose the world, the flesh and the devil. As Christians, we are not opposed to socialism (creeping or otherwise) unless it becomes a manifestation of Satan’s influence. We oppose Communism, not as a political movement or economic theory, but as one “high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God” (II Corinthians 10: 5). We oppose the Ku Klux Klan, or the Black Panthers, because they are manifestations of hate, and hate is of the Devil. To be a Christian does not make one either liberal or conservative in his politics. Which ever he is he should be true to the principles of Christ.

The church may well speak out against governmental sins — graft, influence-peddling, perversion of justice and so forth. But it opposes these things because they are sinful, not because they are unAmerican. There is no room for politics in the Kingdom of Christ. Bad nationalism is but an excess and abuse of good patriotism. This does not mean we should stop being patriotic. It does mean that we should view our patriotism in the light of Scripture-and keep it in its place.

It is unfortunate that in some parts of the country one who identifies himself as a Bible-believer is immediately pegged as a political rightwinger. It would be equally unfortunate were the association with the left. A country probably needs both wings to fly, but a citizen of heaven is not to become too attached to either.

Let us give thanks to God for our freedoms in America. Let us remember with gratitude the principles of justice and righteousness and individual dignity upon which our nation was founded. Let us work for these principles even now. But lei us always remember that our devotion to justice and our abhorrence of prejudice grow out of our knowledge of God and our relationship to Jesus Christ, and that these principles neither began with nor depend on any earthly government or system.

I love the United States of America. I appreciate the blessings which she gives me. I respect her flag and the principles for which it ideally stands. But having said all this, I must always remember that I am no longer “after the flesh,” that my “citizenship is in heaven,” and that it is from there — not Washington — that I look for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will change this body into the likeness of His glorious body (Philippians 3:20,21).

America needs God. Not vice-versa.