This continues from part 1, where we asked, “Isn’t America part of the world and am I not called to be separate from the world?”
Separate from the world, yes—and also separated unto God (John 17:14, 16; 1 John 2:15–17). But “the world” by no means equates with a nation or a government—both of which God Himself has raised up and established (Gen. 8:21; 9:6; Dan. 2:37-45; 4:17, 25, 32; Acts 17:35; Rom. 13:1–7; 1 Pet. 2:13–17). No, “the world” from which God’s people should be separate consists of those pursuits, pleasures, philosophies, and endeavors which are opposed to God. A nation or a government can be “worldly” or “hostile to God.” But God Himself has raises up nations and establishes governments to be His servants for establishing His righteousness and executing His justice (Rom. 13:1–7). Even Jesus confessed that the Roman governor Pilate—who condemned Him to death—received his ruling authority from God (John 19:11).
Submitting to the Government
Since these governments and nations are God’s creation and they serve His purposes—even if imperfectly, we are commanded to subject ourselves to them (Rom. 13:1–7; 1 Pet. 2:13–17). Keep in mind that these instructions were given by the apostles Paul and Peter when Nero was the Roman Emperor. If God expected His people to submit to and honor such an imperfect government as pagan Rome, doesn’t He expect the same from us toward America—a nation whose institutions were born out of the Judeo-Christian faith (e.g., the Ten Commandments, the Sermon on the Mount)? Indeed, He does.
And this submission and honor is not to be merely passive and minimal (e.g. “We’ll pay our taxes and obey the law, but that’s all”). Remember Jeremiah? He was both zealous for God and passionate for his nation? And when God’s judgment ultimately fell upon his people, he was emotionally crushed and wept inconsolably. Babylonians destroyed the city of Jerusalem and demolished its Temple; Jerusalem’s people carried away as prisoners to pagan Babylon.
Living as Exiles
Yet, when he heard that the Jewish exiles in Babylon were hoping to escape Babylon and return to their homeland, Jeremiah rebuked them. In a letter he wrote to the exiles, Jeremiah told them that they would remain in Babylon for a lifetime—seventy years (Jer. 29:10–14). But until the day God brought them back to their true homeland, they now had a new home and it was Babylon. They were even to seek its peace and prosperity—and to pray to God on its behalf. “For,” Jeremiah told his people, “in its peace and prosperity, you will have peace and prosperity” (Jer. 29:4–7).
And doesn’t that define the believer’s responsibility to the country in which God has placed him? Sure, this world is not our home and our citizenship is in heaven (Phil. 3:20–21). Yet God commands us to support—through taxes, obedience, service, and prayer—the nation in which we find ourselves. Jesus told us that we have an obligation to both Caesar (government) as well as to God (Matt. 22:15—21).
It’s true, God calls believers to be sojourners and strangers in this world (Heb. 11:13–16; 1 Pet. 2:11). But God does not want us to be an uncaring and emotionally detached people, unmoved by the suffering of the country we call home. He calls us to be the light of the world and the salt of the earth (Matt. 5:14–16). We cannot fulfill that mission if we sequester ourselves away in a cloister. No, we must integrate with our community and our nation—to sway it toward righteousness, to bear its burdens, and to work and pray for its welfare and peace (1 Tim. 2:1–2). As Jeremiah bore the griefs and fate of his nation, so we should bear the griefs and fate of ours.
We must integrate with our community and our nation in order to sway it toward righteousness.
This is biblical patriotism. Certainly we must always obey God above man whenever the two conflict (Acts 4:19; 5:29). But day to day, God calls us to be a blessing and a force for good in our communities and in every facet of our nation and government. And for a nation as good and as great as ours, it is perfectly appropriate to love, serve, and defend America.
Dear Father in heaven, please make me an instrument of Your peace and healing today. Help me to bear the burdens of those around me and to pray for their welfare and salvation. Help me to be a channel of Your love—in my home, community, and country. Amen.