Yesterday, the United States of America celebrated its independence. This means that countless Americans spent the day poolside, grilling burgers and watching firework displays. This also means that countless churches spent the Sunday prior (July 1st) honoring both God and country in their morning worship services.

But some churches did not. The approach of July 4th and the Sunday before it caused me to read numerous opinions on my Twitter feed regarding the mention of Independence Day in local church worship services. Some are adamantly against it, claiming that celebrating America speaks against the Great Commission to spread the gospel to the ends of the earth. Other pastors shared how they have led their churches to remove the American flag from the stage of their church sanctuary. Still others do not feel so strongly and stated they would honor America during their time of worship.

Biblically, where should we stand on this issue of “God and country”? Allow me to make some observations.

The Bible does not mention America.

The Bible does not talk about America, and in fact, it was not written to Americans, either. If you think about it, God was the only one who knew anything about the Americas until they were discovered in the fifteenth century AD.

But this doesn’t necessarily mean that we should never mention America in our churches. The Bible doesn’t mention email or Facebook or airplanes or Disneyland, but surely these topics somehow arise in sermons and other in-church discussions.

Nations are not to be worshipped.

Though it is acceptable to mention America in a church service, it is not acceptable to worship America in a church service (or anywhere else for that matter). No nation is worthy of worship. Only the Trinitarian God who created us and died for us is worthy of our worship.

This is easy enough to say, and I hope that most would readily agree, but when we start reciting the pledge to the American flag and singing the Star-Spangled Banner and other patriotic songs in our worship services (in the place of other, more gospel-focused songs), the lines become blurry in peoples’ minds. When this happens, people are prone to leave the service thinking how great America is instead of how great God is. Herein lies a great danger: that churches lead people to worship and focus on anything besides the glory of God.


Support Help Me Believe for $1/month and receive bonus videos and more. 

become_a_patron_button@3x


 

Nations are important to God. 

If you have ever read much of the Bible, you know that it mentions many, many nations. Of course you are familiar with Israel, the nation God chose to be His special possession. But you probably know several other nations, some which are very difficult to pronounce!

Besides Israel, some of the important nations or empires in the Bible were the Assyrians, Babylonians, Persians, Greeks, and Romans. All of these nations were important to God, and God used these countries to bring about His plan. He used the Assyrians and Babylonians to punish both Israel and Judah for their covenant failures. He then used Cyrus and the Persians to allow the restoration of a righteous remnant. In the New Testament, He used the Romans, their language (Koine Greek), and their wonderful road system to allow the mass spreading of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Nations are indeed important to God.

Does this also apply to America? Sure it does. America, and every other nation on planet earth, was and is a part of God’s sovereign plan. God has used this country and its citizens to do some great things.

All nations are important to God. 

“America is the greatest nation in the world.” Have you ever heard anyone say that? Would God say that? “Greatest” is a very subjective term; it depends on what your metrics are, and I’m sure God’s are different than ours. Does God value America? I’m sure He does, but I can’t say that He singles America out over Australia, Argentina, Algeria, or Afghanistan. He has a plan for all nations, the utmost of which is for all peoples from all nations to come to a saving relationship with Him.

God has indeed blessed America.

There is no denying this. Since its very beginning, the citizens of the United States of America have enjoyed many great freedoms that aren’t experienced in other nations. Throughout the years God has blessed America with some great leaders, great progress, and great financial standing. But for this, God is to be worshipped and praised, not America.

God has certainly blessed America, but He has blessed numerous other nations as well.

We are Christians first and Americans second.

Our citizenship in God’s kingdom is of much more importance than our citizenship in America (or any other nation). Romans 13:1-7 and 1 Peter 2:11-17 teach us that we are to be respectable citizens of whatever country we hold citizenship. But our earthly citizenship does not inform our kingdom citizenship. No, our kingdom citizenship must inform our earthly citizenship. We must live a life based on Scriptural principles, not American principles. As my pastor said this past Sunday, we must not focus on the flag but on the Father, on His glory and not Old Glory.

What did your church do, if anything, in light of Independence Day? How do you keep yourself focused on Christ and not on America?

Advertisements

Posted by Travis Flanagan

I am a believer, husband, and expectant father who loves serving the Lord and the local church. I am currently an associate pastor of youth/discipleship and a pastoral research assistant for three pastors. Educationally, I have a BA and an MA in Biblical and Theological Studies from Criswell College. I am currently pursuing a PhD in Theology from Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. My research interests include the early church and Greco-Roman voluntary associations (and especially the relationship between the two!).

23 Comments

  1. Often I feel we take ourselves too seriously at the expense of the God we should fear. Do we live our or faith as religious zealots to honor him, or does all creation honor him and his Word the path of redemption to bring us back in line? If believers get together and honor their country, thank God for the opportunity to live here and serve others more because we have been blessed so much in the USA how awesome is that! What a slap in God’s face that he knew us before we were born, that he placed us in this land that we take that talent, bury it, covet what others have, pilfer from others, disrespect authorities, or not thank God for the freedom he blessed us with or honor our forefathers who fought to bring us freedom or the constitution. If believers don’t thank God I think he will turn them over to a depraved mind.

    Liked by 3 people

    Reply

  2. Great post! We Christians in the United States of America need to be reminded of these things. I just wrote about how politics gets entangled with our Christianity to our detriment.
    https://navigatingbyfaith.com/2018/06/24/the-gospel-and-dialogue-with-our-culture/

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply

  3. Other than singing God Bless America at the beginning of church, we had a normal service. My church does believe in praying for our nation (but not to it) for our leaders, and for other issues, because obviously, we want our nation to serve God, but, like you said, first and foremost, we are Christians, children of God’s kingdom, and Americans second, and therefore, our focus is on leading Godly lives, not American lives, so there isn’t a lot of mention of America in service, unless it is being used for an example. Great post.

    Liked by 3 people

    Reply

  4. Excellent post! I am continuously astounded how Christians in the USA think that Bible passages and promises are aimed at them. You are so right when you say that “America is not mentioned in the scriptures.” And also that we are called to pray for and obey the governments we are under. The USA is, from a Biblical perspective, just one of the “nations”. Granted that it has been greatly blessed and we would do well to remember this and thank God for it, bit it has no special place, Biblically speaking.

    You make a very provocative comment when you state, “Herein lies a great danger: that churches lead people to worship and focus on anything besides the glory of God.” Sure, it can be applied to activities on or around the 4th of July, but there are many things accepted within the churches, and that are thoroughly integrated into Christianity, that fall squarely under this rubric. All our traditions and ways need to be weighed by this measurement while remembering that the glory of God will be in line with what His word tells us. So anything we do that is against His word does not bring Him glory and should be judged so. This, in fact, was one of the points of contention that Yeshua (Jesus) had with the Pharisees and people. Traditions took precedence and replaced the word of God. They were convinced their traditions were correct, especially as some of the traditions had been around for a long, long time. In the same way we need to review what the churches are teaching us and weigh that against God’s word. It can be hard, but the end is to bring glory to God, and to remove the spots and wrinkles from the church.

    Thanks for the post!
    – Yosef

    Liked by 2 people

    Reply

  5. Wonderful, insightful post–and much needed. “God has, indeed, blessed America, but for that God should be praised, not America”. Words of truth, no doubt. He does not love Americans more than He does the natives of other sovereign countries. Perhaps He uses America more for His purposes than some other nations because of our religious liberties, our wealth, power and influence. We Americans certainly like to think He does. But we should also remember that with great blessing there is great responsibility. This too is a Biblical concept. As Christians we must be able to discern between right and wrong, good and evil and the greater and lesser degrees of evil. It’s being “…wise as serpents and gentle as doves.” It is being wise.

    Liked by 3 people

    Reply

  6. Thanks for this post. I often feel that many of my conservative friends are actually nominal Christians that actively practice the religions of politics and patriotism instead of Christianity. I was actually grateful that my church didn’t alter its regular sermon series to acknowledge Independence Day for the same reason you mention above.

    Liked by 2 people

    Reply

  7. Allthingsthriller actually echoed my thoughts, that with great privilege/blessing comes great responsibility. When I sing the patriotic songs they become a reminder of how much God has blessed us in this land and becomes a praise, thanksgiving and prayer for us not to take those blessings lightly. We ask Him to bless America but don’t let Him tell us how to live.We want His blessings our way, forgetting who He is.

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply

  8. In the book of Deuteronomy The Father tells Hebrew Israelites he will bring a nation from the far ends of the earth, who is a swift as the eagle flieth. They will have no compassion for the man, woman young or elder. That’s where America is mentioned.

    Liked by 2 people

    Reply

    1. Seeing as the book of Deuteronomy was written in the 7th century BC this assertion is pretty far-fetched. It is more likely the author was referring to the Romans (Babylonians used the eagle as a descriptor for Romans: Jeremiah 4:13 / Ezekiel 17:3 / Daniel 7:4), or the Chaldeans who had an eagle on their flags. While prophetic messages are part of the Biblical texts, the context of the time period helps keep us on grounded biblical territory.

      Liked by 1 person

      Reply

      1. I believe those people are America and Britain and the European ancestors. All those nations share the exact same trade mark on the government buildings they made. There are documentaries showing them all throughout the ages. The white house is the last one built with the exact same foundation as the Romans in that time.

        Like

      2. That would be a difficult sell, as the Babylonians where conquered Persia and then became what we know as modern-day Iran. Rome has no lineage from the Babylonian and was founded out of the Greek peninsula. Britain was formed from anglo saxion tribes from Scandinavia which the Persians wouldn’t have known about at the time from what I can tell.
        Unfortunately for your argument, Greek culture had a wide hand in cultural influence and it only makes sense that they would have been part of forming what we know as the world today. politics, architecture, literature, philosophy can be transposed to most modern countries now. While I understand your argument but transposing America into the bible I feel is rather arrogant.

        Like

      3. Ok, so in Deuteronomy 28 when Moses is speaking to Israel, the 12 Tribes. The curses that would come upon them if they didn’t harken to the law, who and where are those people today? Did Not the nation from afar that is swift as the eagle fly come with ships and make the tribe of Judah slaves? Is that difficult to sell too? I suggest you edify and cross reference your knowledge and the truth you know again. The tribe of Judah is where Christ came, and he told the Canaanite woman, he was not sent, but into the lost sheep of the House of Israel who are scattered among the four corners of the earth. That includes all the nations you mentioned in your last response. He who has an ear, let him hear. This time we have left before the Messiah returns with his Chariots and everything else that’s going to take place, I suggest you seek out the true Hebrew Israelites and teach who don’t know who they really are and wake them up, your fellow Christians included. May God bless you and all your prayers may he hear. Blessed

        Like

      4. It is because Scattering does not = Enslavement. Jesus came to reunify the scattered Jewish people under a new Divine rule that allowed for his people to return to a relationship with God, even after they had refused to take down their idols.

        Scattering has nothing to do with physical location rather there spiritual inability to put God first in there lives, causing them to be weak and be conquered (likely without a battle). Conquest isn’t always bloody or involve enslavement, instead, can be rulership based in popularity that can dictate assimilation into an already thriving body based on their political, religious, and, ideological beliefs. This would, in turn, lead to the willfully leaving your lands for a better life. The curse is a poetic representation of the loss of God’s blessing which is a punishment the Israelites brought upon themselves, not a verbatim history lesson.

        However, at this point, I’m just going to say the conversation should likely end since we are looking at the biblical literature in dramatically different lights.

        Like

      5. I enjoy all conversations I have with followers of my God and Messiah. My love for them will never end and my fellowship with all my brothers and sisters and strangers that adopt his laws and principles will never end for me. I enjoy your content and continue to follow you. Blessed

        Liked by 1 person

    2. Interesting interchange between ‘Her Butler’ and ‘Push the Narrative.’ It is a good thing that there will be no questionnaire at the ‘gates of heaven’ asking us what we believe about the USA being mentioned in the Bible, who Israel is, and what is meant by scattering. I’m fairly sure that we’d all fail that test.

      That said, as near as I can tell, ‘Her Butler’ is saying that the USA is included in the reference from the book of Deuteronomy. In as far as that goes, the USA is ‘one of the nations’ and it can be included in such references. If people don’t realize it yet, yes, the USA has the eagle as a symbol, but so did (and do) many other nations throughout the ages, some of them virulently against the Jews. Whether or not that the passage is in sole reference to the USA I doubt, but it’s not worth an argument.

      As far as limiting prophecy to the immediate surrounding time frame, that is a restriction that will not hold, nor can it if we serve an omnipotent God. (Besides, claiming that the book of Deuteronomy was written in the 7th century BC is a minor theory, and goes against textual evidence within the Torah itself). However, ‘Push the Narrative’ does give some good history. Also, some prophecies have more then one ‘fulfillment’. Whether or not this applies to the prophecy in question is for others to discuss.

      I will end with this: ‘scattering’, as used in the Bible in reference to the Israelites, does indeed mean a physical dispersion to other areas. The ‘reason’ for the scattering is what ‘Push the Narrative’ said.

      Above all, it is amazing to see what is happening today: God is calling Israel back to the land. Yeshua (Jesus) is being preached in the land! His word and His Law are going forth from Zion and Jerusalem! We are living in a time where some prophecies are being fulfilled! We need to keep our eyes on Yeshua (Jesus)! and watch what God is doing.
      – Yosef

      Liked by 1 person

      Reply

      1. Shalom Yosef, and thank you for contributing to the discussion. It’s a blessing ti be Alive and awake with all who are awake and continue to awaken every day. Enjoy your Sabbath. Blessed

        Like

  9. Very interesting thoughts. When it comes to your last point though, the songs we sing about America do focus on God’s role in it. I have personally never had it be a distraction. However I do understand what you mean, and I agree that saying the pledge of allegiance isn’t an act of worship to God that should take place in church service.

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply

  10. I wouldn’t put too much emphasis on searching prophecy to see where our promises lie.

    America was our “Great Experiment,” not God’s.

    Our only promises lie in our individual identities in Jesus. He is our Shepard, our Gate, and our Gatekeeper.

    It doesn’t matter what the nation does, in fact, lately I don’t want to be lumped in with any one church, let alone any one nation. Our saving grace is in our right relationship with the Father through the Son. (period).

    I do believe that the USA has been blessed from the beginning as a result of the prayers and the devotion to God of the first generations of people that came here, and I believe that God honored that.

    But, I don’t believe we should take any of that for granted, especially now. We are generations away from them, and we are not entitled to anything as Americans.

    I attend churches that pray for our nation just like we pray for any nation… that The Gospel is spread, and God’s will is done.

    Sure, we can ask for things, but there is a point where we ask for things that God doesn’t will anyway. It’s His story, not ours.

    Liked by 2 people

    Reply

  11. Wow, this is a very good and relevant post (which most of your posts seem to be). Thank you!

    Liked by 2 people

    Reply

  12. It is Jesus Christ who frees
    If therefore the Son enfranchises you, you will be truly free.
    John 8.36

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply

  13. True faith should be in Jesus. In proverbs it does teach to always submit to our leaders and God would be the one guiding them.
    This all depends on how commited the country is on following truth. As another post says in John 8:32 we shall find that the truth sets us free. It is important as a country to understand the importance of praising and praying with a sincere heart. This is what will bring true serving with fear and trembling. In revelation it says that Jesus true testimony is the spirit of prophesy. The bible was so perfectly made that the middle verse was to trust God because man can’t really be trusted. Come on! God is so full of wonders that He used the perfect individuals to device a perfect collections of books (the bible) and one of the few books that has been read across many generations. If our creator of the heavens and the earth wanted to include the United States through a prophesy, why would that be impossible? Not agreeing with anyone regarding this piece of scripture because I would have to study and pray about it to come to a conclution.
    May God keep opening our spiritual eyes so we can see how GREAT is our GOD! God bless.

    Like

    Reply

  14. Consider the other versus of the Star-Spangled Banner. In fact, nearly every patriotic song of the 1800s focuses on America’s need for God. These songs, sung in our churches, should bring us to a point of gratitude for God’s goodness and grace both to America and to each of us.

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

w

Connecting to %s