The Problem with Patriotism

America is the land of the free and the home of the brave; we host freedoms unlike almost every other part of the world, and in our land convenience is king. We are incredibly proud of our country, and if you asked, many would agree that they feel the United States is superior in almost every way, they would tell you that they proudly label themselves as patriots. Thanks to a few “European/American History” intense semesters of college, I know that Nationalism is nothing new, nor is patriotism exclusive to America, but for the sake of this immediate conversation (?) that will be the platform for my rhetoric.

The dictionary describes patriotism as “devoted love, support, and defense of one’s country; national loyalty”

I know more than a few Christians who are incredibly patriotic, fulfilling that definition to the T (and then some). But there’s a problem with this, friends; patriotism is exactly the opposite of what Christ preached.

Now, I am by no means implying that we shouldn’t be grateful for the favors that living in this country has afforded us, or that we shouldn’t be thankful to the men and women who protect and serve us; gratitude is something different entirely. I will be the first one to admit how BLESSED we are in this nation that our God has given us, and I absolutely unequivocally do not believe we should downplay the gifts we’ve been given in any way. But again, appreciation is not the subject at hand. It’s the exclusivity.

As children, most of us recite the Pledge of Allegiance in school every day, which serves to mold us into patriots from the beginning, so that once we are grown it is deeply ingrained.

“I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the republic for which it stands. One nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”

But listen, friends, there is only ONE power to whom we should be pledging our allegiance, and that is Christ the Lord.

Turn to me and be saved,  all the ends of the earth!  For I am God, and there is no other. By myself I have sworn; from my mouth has gone out in righteousness, a word that shall not return: ‘To me every knee shall bow, every tongue shall swear allegiance.” – Isaiah 45:23

“No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. ” – Matthew 6:24

We cannot be fully loyal or fully devoted to two masters. We just can’t.

When I shared this post in its draft phase, I received some loving but challenging feedback from my sweet friend, Danielle.  She asked (and I’m paraphrasing here) “But don’t we declare our loyalty in our lives? We promise to be loyal to our husbands, and to our friends.”

Of course she’s right. I have devoted myself and pledged my loyalty to my husband above all other men on this earth. However, I believe (as I know she does) that our marriages here on earth are meant to be a reflection of the relationship between Christ and His church. This is something sacred, and apart from marriage (both mortal and supernatural) there is no other relationship like it.

As for my friends? Yes, I am loyal to them – but not at the expense of another. If I had two dear friends, and I knew that one of them was gossiping about the other, my loyalty to that friend would not outweigh my moral duty to rebuke them and protect the others heart.

The same is true with national loyalty. I love our country for all that it is, and all that it was, and all that I pray it might be again – but not at the expense of another people or another nation.

And as for superiority? We are measuring by all the wrong metrics. We boast of our freedoms – freedom to live whatever lifestyle we want, to pray to any god (or not) that we choose, freedom to fight against authority. We boast in our money, in our houses, in our cars, in our vacations, and in our clothes. These things are of no eternal value, though, and God tells us they are not worthy of boasting.

Thus says the Lord : “Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the mighty man boast in his might, let not the rich man boast in his riches, but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the Lord who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight, declares the Lord.” – Jeremiah 8:23-24

I cannot help but feel that this kind of patriotism serves as a hindrance in furthering the Kingdom of God.  When we choose to serve our country above all others we are separating ourselves and become respecters of people. When we declare ourselves the best we are then in the same breath, albeit usually unintentionally, declaring that all others are beneath us.

“Then Peter opened his mouth, and said, Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons: But in every nation he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him” – Acts 10:34

If I may be so bold, I would suggest that along with unrelenting patriotism one can, not uncommonly, find a sense of prejudice against “opposing” countries. In America the most obvious places that come to mind are the Middle East, China, and North Korea, but each person has their own background that develops these prejudices. These are places we fear or don’t understand; they are places whose governments may have animosity towards our own, or vice versa. But as individual people, and especially as Christians, we are not our governments. We do not always usually stand for the things they stand for, their policies most often do not align with our own.

It seems as though we’ve forgotten that America, despite what the politicians want you to believe, is not the chosen land. Through the holy covenant provided by Jesus’s sacrifice we have been adopted into the family, but since the time of Abraham it is Israel that the Lord has declared as His chosen land.

I have chosen Jerusalem that my name may be there” – 2 Chronicles 6:6

Not to mention the Lord Himself completely ignores our physical and biological differences.

“There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise.” – Galatians 3:28-29

And He sets the expectation that we are to do exactly the same.

Our commission as Christians is to “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation.” – Mark 16:15

And that, loved ones, is the point.

Go into all the world – without a separatist attitude, without prejudice, simply with open hands and hearts.

But not out of pity or sympathy; do not open your hands to the needy because you feel yourself above them and are therefore obligated by position. Meet them, friends, eye to eye and heart to heart.

Cast aside everything that adorns your world aside of Christ, reach out with true eternal love, and clasp their hands in prayer as equals. After all, the only difference between us and them is that they are still lost, and we have the key.

The people of this world are broken, hurting, and hungry. They are children of God just like you and I; inside them lie souls exactly like yours and mine, souls that are still undeclared and in desperate need of a savior. We need to look to the people of these countries through eyes of grace and compassion. We need to realize that, for all her wares, the United States is incredibly flawed and broken, but because of the comfort that the Lord has provided for us here, almost all of us are in a position to utilize those plentiful resources for good.

We can feed the hungry, we can embrace the hurting, we can save the lost one at a time, if only we choose to look beyond our borders.

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