Christian: one who believes in Jesus Christ; one who exemplifies in his life the teachings of Christ
patriot: a person who loves, supports, and defends his country and its interests with devotion
In rural upstate New York when I was growing up, it was understood that we all were Christians and patriots. Our fathers and uncles served during WWII. Everyone went to church, even if it was only on Easter and Christmas. We were raised to respect policemen and clergy. We would sing “The Star Spangled Banner” and “Jesus Loves Me” with equal fervor. Any criticism of our country was considered “unAmerican,” and akin to declaring yourself an atheist. It just didn’t happen.
It is painfully evident, however, that the United States of America is no longer a Christian nation. While this process has been ongoing for decades, the fast-forward mode since 9/11 is impossible to ignore.
Because of this conflict between God and country, I believe that the day is coming when we will each have to choose: Are we Christians first or Americans first? Are we going to support a government that has turned its back on God, or are we going to serve God?
If you’re having trouble imagining what this choice might look like on a personal level, here are a few situations that already exist.
Soldier: God does not approve of torture – America does. Many soldiers have been faced with this choice already. Some, like those at Abu Ghraib, have chosen America. Others, like the Iraq Veterans Against the War, are speaking out against our abusive practices and paying a price for speaking that truth.
Doctor: God does not approve of abortion – America does. Should doctors be forced to perform abortions against their conscience? HHS recently issued a press release that will protect health care workers from having to make a choice between keeping their jobs and murdering babies. However, we know that Obama supports abortion, so how long before these regulations are reversed? Gov. Paterson has already denounced them, on this basis:
This violates not only our basic moral code, but the Hippocratic Oath to do no harm, an oath typically taken by physicians, but which should be upheld by all who work in the health care field.
I find it incredibly ironic that Paterson chose this basis to object. Is he completely unaware that the Hippocratic Oath until very recently included this statement:
I will not give a lethal drug to anyone if I am asked, nor will I advise such a plan; and similarly I will not give a woman a pessary to cause an abortion.
Not only did it forbid abortion, it also forbid euthanasia. More importantly, God forbids both. When the laws change again, as they surely will, every doctor and nurse will have to make a decision.
Clergy: God does not approve of homosexuality – America does. Pastors need to decide whether they will preach God’s Word, or give in to a militant culture that cries “hate speech” when homosexuality is condemned. A youth pastor in Canada made his choice by writing a letter to the editor, and he is paying the price. Rick Warren appears to be modifying his position. Other pastors are embracing the LGBT community, choosing to be politically correct and “inclusive,” instead of theologically correct.
And the list goes on. Almost every circumstance we learn of today has these overtones. In the days ahead, I believe that all who call themselves Christians will have to make a choice between God and country, a true separation of church and state, in the heart of each individual. I know that many will choose country, because Jesus told us that many will fall away. And I know that many will initially choose God, but when their choice is tested, when they are called to pay a price for putting Jesus first, they will change their minds.
I have made my choice. I am no longer a patriot, because I cannot in good conscience “love, support, and defend my country and its interests with devotion.” At most, I am just a citizen who “inhabits” this nation. More precisely, I am an alien who has been born again into another nation.
But you are A CHOSEN RACE, A royal PRIESTHOOD, A HOLY NATION, A PEOPLE FOR God’s OWN POSSESSION, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; for you once were NOT A PEOPLE, but now you are THE PEOPLE OF GOD; you had NOT RECEIVED MERCY, but now you have RECEIVED MERCY. Beloved, I urge you as aliens and strangers to abstain from fleshly lusts which wage war against the soul. (1 Peter 2:9-11)
All these died in faith, without receiving the promises, but having seen them and having welcomed them from a distance, and having confessed that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. For those who say such things make it clear that they are seeking a country of their own. And indeed if they had been thinking of that country from which they went out, they would have had opportunity to return. But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God; for He has prepared a city for them. (Hebrews 11:13-16)
I am a Christian who is looking for my heavenly home. I am a grateful Christian, whose many sins have been forgiven because Jesus died on the cross for me. The Holy Spirit has taken up residence in my heart, to teach me and comfort me. Because of this, I am prepared to pay the price for following Jesus, but I am not an arrogant Christian. I take Jesus’ admonition in Matthew 26:41 seriously, as I think we all should:
Keep watching and praying that you may not enter into temptation;
the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.
I pray that all Christians will choose eternity, instead of a momentary pleasure; will choose the God of the universe, instead of the gods of this world.
If it is disagreeable in your sight to serve the LORD, choose for yourselves today whom you will serve: whether the gods which your fathers served which were beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living; but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD. (Joshua 24:15)