Friday, July 4, 2008

Love of God and Love of Country - Two Very Separate Things

I love my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. I also love my country. Although I love them both, these loves are very different and very separate. When we begin to fuse or confuse the two, we have a problem.

When we read the New Testament, we see Jesus and His followers facing persecution from those in positions of authority. Some of these were religious leaders, while others were political. The early church was never granted "religious freedom" by anyone here on earth. I seriously doubt the Christians described in the book of Acts, for example, confused their love for God with their feelings about countries in which they lived.

As in bible times, most biblical Christians today live where the ruling elites do not favor them. For example, in China the church faces various levels of persecution from the Communist government. In India, the church is often targeted by radical Hindu groups. In Islamic countries, Christians are frequently treated brutally simply because they confess Christ as Lord. I don't think these folks mix love of Jesus with love of country.

In the USA, we are in a unique situation. We are one of the few countries in the world that offers, at least for now, some semblance of religious freedom to Christians. This is a country which was founded on Christian principles, but has strayed far from those. However, many Christians in the USA still believe and act like this is a "Christian nation." Because of this, they often mix and match their love of God with love of country.

Some go so far as to say that if you love God you also love your country. They act as if you must love your country in order to love God. This even plays itself out in how conservative Christians, in order to show that they love God, almost all vote Republican instead of looking for better options (not Democrat, but rather this).

What bothers me the most about this odd mix of love of God and love of country is how it affects the church. This coming Sunday in the USA many churches will have a confusing worship service. The confusion lies in who will be worshiped. Is it God? Is it country? Is it a strange mix of the two? Listen carefully to the singing and the preaching. Who or what is the focus on Sunday?

I don't have a problem with singing an occasional patriotic hymn, if the focus of that hymn is on God and not country. What troubles me is when the overall theme of the worship service is bowing before the US flag instead of God Himself. This is why on this coming Sunday I have absolutely no plans to say anything at all about US independence day.

On Sunday, July 13th we will be celebrating the Lord's Supper at Chevis Oaks Baptist. I can't wait. This Sunday I will be preaching from I Corinthians 11:27-34. I'll be stressing what Paul stressed: the importance of partaking of the supper worthily; we go about this first by examining ourselves. By preaching on this text on Sunday, my hope is that we as a church will examine ourselves throughout the upcoming week (and continue to do so after the Lord's Supper).

The text has nothing to do with US independence. Therefore, I'm not mentioning it.

Let's stop confusing love of God and love of country. As Christians, our primary duty and joy is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.

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