O-S-S is for Of Several Sorts

"Patriotism" is a broad word. It refers to a devotion to one's nation. But not all love is good; it is of several sorts. And the September 11th attacks spurred a rise in patriotism of all sorts. Flag sales increased because people want to express attachment, loyalty and love for the USA. Though "patriotism" is not in the Bible as a word, the Bible has many things to say about it. Simplistic approval or disapproval of patriotism is not biblical. We must speak clearly.

Where love for country is part of the second great commandment to love neighbors, it is good that this form of patriotism has increased. Good that there is a renewed appreciation for each other, especially for police officers and firefighters and the dangers they face to protect or rescue us. Good if we act in greater care for each other.

Love for country can also take the shape of appreciation of elected political leaders, whose own love for country has led them to public service. Not that they are selfless, and certainly not that we cannot criticize their proposals. But the NT command to "honor the king" is fulfilled by that sort of patriotism that, despite disagreements, will not trivialize office holders as unintelligent, vain or blinded by selfish interests.

Patriotism can be a willingness, even gladness, to pay one's taxes. One's freely and legally elected representatives establish government agencies and programs for the common good. Then they legally and with our OK apportion the costs of running them. Patriotism can obey the NT command, "Pay taxes to those to whom taxes are due."

Love of country can also be willingness to serve in its armed forces, putting one's own life in danger to protect one's fellow citizens. Patriotism can also serve in others ways, as a teacher in a poverty-ridden district, a doctor in an inner-city clinic, a volunteer in the Scouts, a firefighter or law enforcement officer, or in any other place where one puts oneself not for personal gain but to protect or lift up fellow citizens.

Patriotism of these sorts is commanded by the Bible.

But what of patriotism as national pride? "I'm proud to be an American" requires examination from a biblical perspective. It is good if it means, I'm grateful to be American, recognizing that God's gift and no deserving of one's own made one born in a rich, powerful nation with civil rights. Such "pride" will motivate us to humility and to help people in lesser circumstances.

"I'm proud" could convey pride in the USA's accomplishments, whether technological, spiritual, economic, athletic, moral, military, political, artistic or whatever. This, too is healthy if it includes humble gratefulness to God for one's fellow citizens.

Pride becomes objectionable when it becomes theological, when people believe that the fact of their being American bestows on them worth. In Crossings terminology, God diagnoses that wrong belief for the sin it is. If "I'm proud to be an American" contains the error "because I am American I am good," then it violates both God's Law and God's Gospel. One who so says and so believes is in danger of eternal death. In the Day of Reckoning, such a person will find that being American carries no moral worth with God; it does not justify one, even in part.

This expose' is best used, however, to play up God's merciful alternative in Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ offers citizenship in His kingdom. He offers it for free. Even those who have in the past thought more highly of the USA than of Christ's kingdom, can yet freely enter it, no hard feelings. Yes, their past is guilty. But the King has taken responsibility for that guilt, and for freeing people from it. At the entryway to His kingdom therefore is not a statue of "Liberty," but His own cross, the agent of liberty. This is God's alternative.

And it is so attractive an offer that anyone who believes it to be true will be impressed. She will come through the gate, entering the kingdom. This citizenship does give her worth that will be acknow-ledged by the Judge on the Day of Reckoning as plenty good enough.

tbcm

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