Can a Christian Be Patriotic?

Our Christian walk overlaps the worldly walk in so many areas—some without conflict and others with much conflict. So much so, that there is constant need for serious examination of our values and loyalties to ensure that we have an eye that is single toward Heaven and an emphasis on matters which are Spiritual. Since the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, our country has been riding a crest of patriotism. As I drove through our home town today, July 31, 2004, banners and flags were everywhere, heralding the return of local men and women who served in Iraq. Many store windows were painted in red, white and blue with endearing words of “Thanks”, “We Love You”, and “Welcome Home”. Yellow ribbons and balloons and “ribbon” car decals spoke of patriotic pride and gratitude. Part of my heart was deeply touched by this hometown pride and nationalistic fervor. But something in my spirit was uneasy with those feelings. Brethren, it is so easy for Christians to be swept up in this national tide and carried away. We may certainly be thankful for their service, but I want to challenge us to consider whether it is permissible to be openly “patriotic.” Can we who profess to belong to the kingdom of God also be firmly rooted in this nation of men? When folks get around and talk, and “run the flag up the pole” as it were, should we be found giving patriotic opinions and joining in heated rhetoric? As citizens in the kingdom of God, we must be careful not to send a mixed signal or present a wrong testimony.

I realize that this is a very unpopular topic, and I share these thoughts at the risk of offending some and alienating others. It is unpopular because these above mentioned events have unified a divided nation, and to appear unpatriotic is to appear un-American. Who of us do not know someone who has either served in war, or lost loved ones in battle? Not only is teaching on non-resistance disdained by the secular world, but the majority of the religious world has American flags on their church stages, and their young men go to battle with the graces of their pastors and priests. Although the subject of nonresistance is unpopular, we believe it to be Biblical.

Let me say that I believe we are blessed to live in the best nation on earth. God has graciously allowed us to live here and raise our families in a country of freedoms. I am thankful for this blessing. But, does that make me patriotic? There are serious ramifications if we misunderstand patriotism. We are going to examine some areas of patriotism and ask you to lay your understanding of patriotism along side of these observations and compare. If they do not apply to you, then perhaps your understanding and practice of patriotism is appropriate. If you are convicted in certain areas, then please search your soul on the matter.

Breathes there the man with soul so dead,
Who never to himself hath said,
This is my own, my native land!
(Sir Walter Scott)

The word patriot comes from the Greek patris, meaning fatherland. A patriot, then, is one who loves and zealously supports his own country. By this definition, we can exclude any “fair weather” citizens. We are talking about people who have an intense love of country and vigorously support it. In Scripture, the word patris is Strong’s number 3968 {pat-rece’}, meaning: 1) one’s native country; 1a) one’s fatherland, one’s own country, a fixed abode or home; and 1b) one’s own native place, i.e. a city. It appears eight times in the New Testament, seven of which speak about Christ’s home land, and one about Heaven.

Matthew 13:54 And when he was come into his own country, he taught them in their synagogue, insomuch that they were astonished, and said, Whence hath this [man] this wisdom, and [these] mighty works?
John 4:44 For Jesus himself testified, that a prophet hath no honour in his own country.
Hebrews 11:16 But now they desire a better country, that is, an heavenly: wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God: for he hath prepared for them a city.

Again, for purposes of this study, patrio means one who loves and zealously supports his own country. Americans from the inner cities to the farmlands are extremely patriotic! They love this great land and appreciate its freedoms. But Americans do not have a corner on this market. From a college course in Russian History, I learned that Russians use the term rodina—the umbilical tie to the land (since the lifeblood comes from the earth.) Roughly translated, it means “love of land” or patriotism. The Russians are fiercely nationalistic (please note the distinction between nationalistic and communistic—that being land versus politics.)

They have a saying, “pust khuzhe, da nashe,” which means “let it be worse...but let it be ours!” This enables them to cope with the harsh elements, oppressive regimes, and poor living conditions. Entire auditoriums can be reduced to tears at the playing of patriotic hymns. I think you find this to be true around the globe. This is my own, my native land! Men march off into battle to defend their country, and willingly die for their land. Men have a genuine feeling of attachment to country, and a great loyalty to country.

Neither Montaigne in writing his essays, nor Descartes in building new worlds, not Burnet in framing an antidiluvian earth, no, nor Newton in discovering and establishing the true laws of geometry, felt more intellectual joys than he feels who is a real patriot, who bends all the force of his understanding, and directs all his thoughts and actions, to the good of his country. (Bolingbroke)

Let’s be truthful and honest—I know a measure of these feelings and so do you. But whether it is Biblical or pleasing to God for us to zealously support this country—or bend all the force of our understanding, and direct all our thoughts and actions, to the good of our country—is a question we should ponder. When we consider the question, “Can a Christian be Patriotic?”, the answer, quite simply, is, “It depends.” I think we must consider some prevalent viewpoints in our nation associated with patriotism (right or wrong) and ask ourselves whether we hold those same beliefs.

1. A Patriot Loves the Flag and Pledges Allegiance To It

Patriotism causes us to idolize an ideal; we become enamored with “country,” “freedoms,” and “rights.” These ideals call for icons (images) or symbols to endear us to the cause. One such icon is the flag. By definition, a flag is simply a piece of cloth with colors and patterns used as a symbol of a nation, state, organization or as a signal, banner, or standard. But it is so much more than that, isn’t it? The flag is a symbol of America, and the American way of life. Americans use endearing names such as “Old Glory,” “The Grand Old Flag,” and the “Stars and Stripes.” The National Anthem, the “Star Spangled Banner,” is written aptly about a flag still waving in the heat of the battle, giving hope to the battle-weary. It elicits tremendous emotion and pride and hats are taken off when it’s sung. Perhaps the hand is placed over the heart. Tears fill the eyes. As a young man, I was taught to respect the flag and honor it. There are rules for folding it and displaying it, and even to properly dispose of it when it becomes tattered and worn. But those who hate America burn the flag as an insult and in so doing they desecrate an American icon. They are railing against our beliefs and our nation. Since America recently came under attack from terrorists, the flag has become prominent everywhere you go. Shortly after “9/11,” we took a trip to the Oregon coast and all along the way we saw the flag on cars, businesses, homes, fences and some flying half-mast. Those flags said:

“I am an American, and proud of it!”
“I love this country and I am hurting along with countless millions.”
“We are strong and we will survive!”
To see this symbol evidenced along our journey was very powerful. It was like the nation, oft-divided, was pulled together and knit into one enormous fabric, united and strong. But, those flags also said to me:
“I support the President in his pledge to eradicate terrorism.”
“We are united in cause, in purpose, in resolve” (to see justice meted out).
“I support and endorse carnal warfare and the taking of human life.”
Brethren, we are to be as pilgrims in a strange land—sojourners wandering without a home, awaiting that day when our Father will give us a home with Him in Heaven. Earthly ties and carnal allegiances are evident to all if we display the flag or claim to be “patriotic.” To others, we may be saying:
“THIS is my home.” (not Heaven.)
“THIS is the land I will die for.” (Is that true?)
“THIS is what I love!” (More than Jesus?)

Again, by our actions and words we can give wrong testimony to others, by suggesting that this is where our true heart lies. We don’t want to send mixed signals, and do not want to defraud anyone. The patriot pledges his allegiance to this flag. Allegiance is defined, in the patriotic sense, as: “to bind; the duty of being loyal to one’s government or country.” That presents a major conflict to the Christian, since the child of God is to give total allegiance to Jehovah God. Deuteronomy 6:5 says, And thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might. I am told that there was a time when it was taught in public schools that when a person displayed the American flag, it meant that he was pledged to defend it and the country it represented. Again, this represents conflicts for the Christian professing non-resistance.

• If patriotism requires a Christian to display the flag, pledge their allegiance to it, and promise to defend it...then it is sinful. If these are not requirements for patriotism, then perhaps it is not.

2. Patriotism Emphasizes an Earthly Home

Did Christ show us by example that it was important to put down roots? To show civic pride? To place heritage or homeland above serving God? No. The Scripture makes reference to “his own country” simply stating that it was the place of his earthly home. His clear purpose was not to defend and love that home, but to serve the Father and redeem the lost. His dwelling place was not earthly, but Heavenly. Likewise, the Apostle Paul said in Philippians 3:20, For our conversation is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ....

In this passage, the word conversation (4175 politeuma {pol-it’-yoo-mah}) means a state or commonwealth. Like Paul, our commonwealth must be in Heaven, not here. Yes, we live in a wonderful country with great blessings. But our state and commonwealth in Heaven is far greater. We must not split our allegiances, but have an eye “single” toward our commonwealth above.
A vivid example of priorities is found in the story of the Rechabites, who refused to own any land, any gardens or vineyards. They were nomadic, serving God “unattached” to any possessions of land. They had no loyalties to country and no allegiances to any flag. In so doing, they avoided many temptations and pitfalls. Likewise, the “heroes of faith,” recorded in Hebrews 11, all had an eye “single” toward a Heavenly home and were not concerned with their temporary station in life. Any battles that were fought were for God’s glory and to carry out His commands, not to endear themselves to a certain country. None fought for country, but for God. Their country was above.
Heb 11:13-16: These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth. For they that say such things declare plainly that they seek a country. And truly, if they had been mindful of that country from whence they came out, they might have had opportunity to have returned. But now they desire a better country, that is, an heavenly: wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God: for he hath prepared for them a city.

• If patriotism misplaces our focus—on the temporal rather than the Heavenly—then it is sinful. If we can maintain an eye “single” toward Heaven, and still profess love for country without contradiction or conflict, then it is not.

3. Patriotism Esteems the Gift More Than the Giver

God gave us a good gift when He allowed us to be citizens of this country. But, do we love it more than Him? Nathan Hale, the epitome of a patriot, uttered as his last words in 1776, “I only regret that I have but one life to lose for my country.” Notice, he did not say, “for my God....” but, “for my country.”

Let me give a word picture. A man lost his wife after a battle with cancer, and was left with only his son to raise. As the son grew to his teenage years, the man wanted to show his love for his son...but he had little money, due to the years of medical expenses on his wife. He had one treasured possession to pass on to his son. For years he had treasured a mint condition 1957 Corvette. He counseled his son regarding the proper use and care of the car, and gave it to him on his 16th birthday.

As time went on, the boy developed such a love for this car—washing, waxing, tuning, and idolizing it. He was the most popular boy in school and the envy of every guy. He found he had less and less time for Dad these days—too much to do and places to go. Then Dad became ill, and the doctors diagnosed that he needed an expensive operation to save his life. The cost of the operation was more than they had. The young man knew that he could sell the car for enough to pay for the operation. But, he loved that car. It was his car. Dad had given it to him, and he could do with as he wished. After much soul searching, and counsel, he came to the conclusion that he had come to love the gift more than the giver. He sold the Corvette, paid for the operation, and found something far more valuable.

In this country, many have grown to love the gift more than the giver. They are even willing to die for the gift rather than for the giver. We look to the Middle East, where bloodshed is common over a piece of real estate known as the Gaza Strip. Israelis defend the homeland with all their might. Palestinians clamor for ground. The gift has become of paramount importance—and God has been lost in the equation. The Bible tells of this propensity of man to forget him, and focus on the land:

Deuteronomy 6:10-15 And it shall be, when the LORD thy God shall have brought thee into the land which he sware unto thy fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give thee great and goodly cities, which thou buildedst not, And houses full of all good [things], which thou filledst not, and wells digged, which thou diggedst not, vineyards and olive trees, which thou plantedst not; when thou shalt have eaten and be full; Then beware lest thou forget the LORD, which brought thee forth out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage.

Patriotism places so much emphasis on the land, and the country, that the giver seems to be secondary in importance. God is a jealous God, and will not take a back seat to the gift He gave. If God took away His wonderful gift—this land, these freedoms—would we still love, worship, and praise Him? Like Job, if it all went away, would we retain our integrity? The patriot who loves country so much will be bitter and hope to die rather than live under another government’s control. Examples in Scripture show how God’s children excelled in high positions after being taken into captivity. Joseph, Daniel, and Nehemiah were all loyal to their foreign rulers, and also loyal to God. Joseph used this to the blessing of his captor nation and his homeland. Daniel said, “O, King live forever!” Nehemiah gained favor and confidence as the cup bearer, and it allowed him to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem. All loved God first and foremost, and served Him wherever they were. They all loved the giver more than the gift! None cried, “Give me liberty or give me death!”

Habakkuk 3:17-19 Although the fig tree shall not blossom, neither shall fruit be in the vines; the labour of the olive shall fail, and the fields shall yield no meat; the flock shall be cut off from the fold, and there shall be no herd in the stalls: Yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will joy in the God of my salvation. The LORD God is my strength, and he will make my feet like hinds’ feet, and he will make me to walk upon mine high places.

• If patriotism causes us to love the gift (our country) more than the giver... then it is sinful. If, however, we always hold God in higher esteem than country and keep the gift in perspective.....perhaps it is not.

4. Patriotism Has Its Roots in Pride

Patriotism and pride go hand in hand. Once, I picked up a USA Today while on vacation, and came across a full page reproduction of the US flag, which the advertiser was urging folks to display. In the margin, it stated “Display Your American Pride.” The flag is synonymous with pride. We hear phrases like: “American Proud,” “Proud to be American,” and “Made in the USA.” I venture to say that pride is at the core of most sins that man can name, and is condemned throughout Scripture. Primarily, the Bible deals with personal pride and arrogance, but what about civic pride? Is there anything wrong with this? Since we are dealing with a carnal use of the word, let’s look at Webster’s definition:

(4) delight or satisfaction in one’s achievements, children, etc.
(6) the best of a class, group, etc.; pick

Taking the first definition, are we satisfied and delighted because we are a nation that is following God’s precepts and commands? Or, because we are the mightiest nation on earth, the leader of the free world, the financial kingpin of the nations, the defender of the just, the breadbasket of the world, and the model for Democracy? Looking at the second definition, are we proud because we are the “best of the best?”

A good definition of pride is: when we take the credit for what God has done. Rather, it should be: Give God the glory, give your authority the credit, and you get the joy. For example, I may be “proud” of my children, in the sense that I am satisfied that they are godly and choosing to follow Christ’s example. I would give God the glory, their mother the credit, and I get the joy. I cannot allow myself to be proud (puffed up) simply because they are my lineage and they happen to do something extraordinary or have some talent which pops the buttons off my chest as it swells with pride. Making the comparison, I can be satisfied (delighted) that we have religious freedoms and a strong governmental system that protects the innocent and punishes the evil. For that, I can give God the glory, our founding fathers or current rulers the credit, and I get the joy. I cannot allow myself to be “puffed up” with a nationalistic pride because we are a super power, or simply because this is the land where I was born.

Examples of Nationalistic Pride in Scripture:

The same attributes that are condemned on a personal level are also condemned on a civic or national level. In Leviticus 26, the Lord promises to send great tribulations upon the people if they refuse to keep His commandments, including punishment at the hands of their enemies. In verse 19 we read, “And I will break the pride of your power; and I will make your heaven as iron, and your earth as brass.”

A Scriptural definition of pride is (01347 ga’own {gaw-ohn’}): Exaltation, majesty, pride, excellence of nations, arrogance.

We see an example of this in the following passages:

  • Ezekiel 30:6 Thus saith the LORD; They also that uphold Egypt shall fall; and the pride of her power shall come down: from the tower of Syene shall they fall in it by the sword, saith the Lord GOD.
  • Jer 13:9 Thus saith the LORD, After this manner will I mar the pride of Judah, and the great pride of Jerusalem.
  • Hosea 5:5 And the pride of Israel doth testify to his face: therefore shall Israel and Ephraim fall in their iniquity; Judah also shall fall with them.

Another word we find in Scripture is 01346 ga`avah {gah-av-aw’} 1) pride, majesty, a rising up, 1a) a rising up, swelling (of the sea); 1b) majesty (of Israel); 1c) pride, haughtiness.

We find an example of this word in Isaiah 25:11 And he shall spread forth his hands in the midst of them, as he that swimmeth spreadeth forth his hands to swim: and he shall bring down their pride together with the spoils of their hands.

Scripture condemns pride of nation because it carries the connotation of arrogance, haughtiness and self-confidence rather than dependence on God.

• If our patriotism is earmarked by carnal pride in military might, financial prowess, and position as the world’s largest super power, then it is sinful. If, however, we take pride in our nation’s achievements which glorify God (freedom of religion, humanitarian efforts, role as peacekeeper, democratic rule, recognized days of prayer), and are careful to give God the glory and our authorities the credit....then perhaps this pride is justified.

5. Patriots Are Confident In Our Nation’s Strength

We mention this here because of the verses we just considered regarding God breaking a nation’s “pride of power.” Pride is sinful, but so is false confidence in our nation’s might. This nation takes great pride in its weapons of mass destruction and highly trained forces. Our military tacticians are top-notch, and our vast resources and mobility are deemed strengths. Men get “puffed up” in this might and relish the power. We recall how God punished David for counting his armies...because it showed he trusted in his own strength.

Many times in Scripture we see where God visibly showed the Israelites that He was the source of their strength in battle. The battle of Ai, Jericho, and others are examples of this. When Moses’s arms remained lifted high in the air, God’s people prevailed. And yet, the patriot is confident in military might.

• If patriotism causes us to place more confidence and trust in our nation’s strength than in God’s it is sinful. If, however, we rightly ascribe all power and majesty and might to Jehovah God, and realize that He is in control...then our confidence is well-placed.

6. Patriotism is Often Blind

Our country! In her intercourse with foreign nations, may she always be in the right; but our country right or wrong. (Stephen Decatur)

Blind patriotism says, “America, right or wrong,” which is contrary to our Christian beliefs. If this nation engages in immoral, sinful, vengeful, or inhumane acts, we cannot condone it or endorse it simply because we are Americans. Sin is sin, and we cannot rubber-stamp it or look the other way in the name of patriotism. Statements such as, “My country, right or wrong,” and “America ...Love It or Leave it!” are based upon emotion, not logic, reason, and Scripture. There is a grave danger in acting upon emotions.

Blind patriotism also clouds truth; therefore, we may be supporting error in ignorance. Men are prone to propaganda and half-truths, to uphold the “image” of American values. Blind patriotism believes all and trusts all in the name of patriotism. I heard an interview of an award-winning photographer who photographed the so-called “smart bombs” that were launched against Saddam Hussein’s Baghdad. The news reports said these were only aimed at military targets and that these “smart” missiles were guided to their target. The photographer took pictures of innocent civilians who were killed in non-military areas. He smuggled the film out of the country in his sock. The major networks refused to air the pictures, fearing repercussions from the government and a backlash of patriotic public sentiment that was riding high at the time. Men cannot be trusted...God can. We follow Him in obedient faith and are assured that He will never deceive.

• When men disregard reason and blindly follow country.....then patriotism is sinful. If we are well-grounded in the Word, our faith is rock-solid, and we realize that our nation—however strong—is made up of men who are fallible, then our patriotic vision is not blind.

7. Patriots Feel the Need to Defend Their “Rights,” “Freedoms,” and “Possessions”

The founding fathers spoke of certain unalienable rights which Americans should expect and demand. For many, these rights are worth dying for. Patrick Henry cried, “Give me liberty or give me death!” As Christians, however, we are to follow Christ’s example and yield our rights. Christ yielded his rights to home, reputation, power and position, even though he was worthy and deserving of all. When wronged, He did not retaliate. When hung on a cross, He prayed for their forgiveness. Within the body of Christ, we submit ourselves one to another in love (Eph 5:21). In the world, we submit to the rulers of the land (1 Pet 2:13). In all, we obey God rather than man (Acts 5:29). When it comes to “rights” and defending possessions, we must be like Isaac who, when dealing with the contentious herdsman of Gerar, simply “dug another well.” Isaac teaches us how to yield our rights and promote peace.

• When the patriot refuses to yield rights but defends them and demands them, it is sinful. If we can emulate Christ and yield our rights, and dig another well—we can be a Christian, but can we be a true patriot?

8. Patriotism Typically Demands Revenge for Wrongs Perpetrated Against One’s Country

Rom 12:19 Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord.
Most patriots support military action against any attackers of our country. But Scripture tells us that taking vengeance is actually stealing from God because He clearly said that it belongs to Him, not us! This action is probably viewed by the patriot as bending all the force of his understanding, and directing all his thoughts and actions, to the good of his country.

• If patriotism demands that we take vengeance... it is sinful. If non-resistance and nationalistic interests can be successfully married, then perhaps a Christian can also be a patriot.

9. Patriotism is Brotherhood

When we align ourselves so strongly with our countrymen, rather than our brethren in Christ, we place ourselves in league with atheists, blasphemers and adulterers and we are definitely unequally yoked. Our interests are divided, and we are pulled away from spiritual interests. Our thoughts revolve around the good of the country, both home and abroad. As our allegiance to country grows deeper, our allegiance to God grows weaker. Perhaps our concern is for our neighbor’s physical welfare more than his spiritual welfare. His carnal interests become our interests, because we have that common bond.

• If our patriotism causes us to be unequally yoked with unbelievers, it is sinful. If , somehow, it does not cause us to be yoked unequally, then perhaps it all right to be a patriot.

10. Patriotism, For Some, Misplaces Priorities

Again, we think of zealous men who epitomize patriotism, and see that country appears to take priority and precedence over God. President John Adams said: “Swim or sink, live or die, survive or perish with my country was my unalterable determination.” Many appear to place country first, family second and God last. We must be very careful to place God first.

• If our patriotism causes us to place God behind is sinful. If we have our priorities straight, then perhaps a Christian can be a patriot.

11. Patriots Get Caught Up In Political and Social Fervor

Satan loves to get us side-tracked, even on good and wholesome things. Anything that diverts our minds and our attentions from serving God is sinful.
Romans 8:6-9 For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God. But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his.
In addition to thinking evil, being carnally minded includes being consumed with the day to day affairs of life. To that extent, if we are consumed with the affairs of the country, wars and rumors of wars, then we are carnally minded and mind not the things of God. Satan has our interests divided, and that is a victory for him.

• If patriotism becomes the topic of our thoughts and conversation and displaces spiritual is sinful. If we can discipline our minds toward the spiritual rather than the carnal we can be a Christian—but can we be a true patriot “who bends all the force of his understanding, and directs all his thoughts and actions, to the good of his country?”

12. Patriotism Promotes Bearing Arms and Taking Human Life

As Christians, we profess non-resistance. As Christians, we conscientiously object to taking human life, hating our enemies and fighting. A few key passages pertaining to the idea of patriotism follow below:
Matthew 26:51 And, behold, one of them which were with Jesus (Peter) stretched out his hand, and drew his sword, and struck a servant of the high priest’s, and smote off his ear. Then said Jesus unto him, Put up again thy sword into his place: for all they that take the sword shall perish with the sword.
John 18:36 Jesus answered, My kingdom is not of this world: if my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews: but now is my kingdom not from hence.
Luke 6:27-36 But I say unto you which hear, Love your enemies, do good to them which hate you, 28 Bless them that curse you, and pray for them which despitefully use you. And unto him that smiteth thee on the one cheek offer also the other; and him that taketh away thy cloke forbid not to take thy coat also. .... But love ye your enemies, and do good, and lend, hoping for nothing again; and your reward shall be great, and ye shall be the children of the Highest: for he is kind unto the unthankful and to the evil. Be ye therefore merciful, as your Father also is merciful.
Romans 12:17-19 Recompense to no man evil for evil. Provide things honest in the sight of all men. If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men.
These passages clearly indicate the non-violent nature of the Christian. But, does this mean the Christian is passive? Not at all. We are to be active in fighting evil with good. This is clearly shown by Paul:
Romans 12:20-21 Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink: for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head. Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good.

• If patriotism causes us to hate our enemies, take human life, and directly violates is sinful. If it does not cause us to bear arms or take human life, then perhaps we can be a patriot “with an asterisk.”

Having considered these 12 points regarding patriotism, we borrow a line from the Apostle Paul and ask that you “judge in yourselves” whether a Christian can be patriotic? Can he do so without having divided loyalties or marked conflicts? Again, the answer is, “it depends.”

• It depends upon us re-writing the definition of patriotism to fit our beliefs.
• It depends on our qualifying “this point” and de-emphasizing “that point.”
• It depends on whether we want to be associated with others who obviously have different beliefs & values.
• It depends on whether our true allegiances are in this life or the life to come.
• It depends on whether we can be patriots and still be pilgrims.

If we are patriots, we have given our allegiance to this country. Again, an allegiance is defined, in the patriotic sense, as “to bind; the duty of being loyal to one’s government or country.” The crux of the issue is that the Christian is a citizen of this earthly kingdom, but more so, we are citizens of a heavenly kingdom! Praise God! We must be careful to see ourselves as pilgrims who are just wandering through this world, looking for a city eternal. To that end, it matters not whether he CAN be a patriot, but whether he SHOULD be a patriot.

Ways to Love and Zealously Support Our Country as a Christian

The quandary that faces Christians is a desire to love our country, but not be willing to die for it. So we offer a few ways in which we can express what we feel in our hearts about this country.

1. By Praying

Become a prayer warrior. Early Church Father Tertullian was urged by a pagan named Celsus to fight for the king for justice. His answer is well worth our consideration:
“...To this, our answer is that we do give help to kings when needed. But this is, so to speak, divine help, “putting on the whole armor of God.” And we do this in obedience to the commandment of the Apostle: “I exhort, therefore, that first of all supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgiving be made for all men; for kings and for all who are in authority.” So the more anyone excels in godliness, the more effective the help that he renders to kings. This is a greater help than what is given by soldiers who go forth to fight and kill as many of the enemy as they can.
“And to those who demand us to bear arms for the commonwealth and to slay men, we reply: “Do not those who are the priests at certain shrines...keep their hands free from blood, so they may offer the appointed sacrifices to your gods with unstained hands that are free from human blood? Even when war is upon you, you never enlist the priests in the army. If, then, that is the praiseworthy custom, how much more so that—when others are engaged in battle—Christians engage as the priests and ministers of God, keeping their hands pure. For they wrestle in prayers to God on behalf of those who are fighting in a righteous cause, and for the king who reigns righteously. They pray that whatever is opposed to those who act righteously may be destroyed....
“...Indeed, we do not fight under him even if he demands it. Yet, we fight on his behalf, forming a special army—an army of godliness—by offering our prayers to God....
“...And Christians are benefactors of their country more than others. For they train up citizens and inculcate piety to a Supreme Being. And they promote to a heavenly city those whose lives in the smallest cities have been good and worthy.”
In addition to these areas of prayer, we should fervently pray that God will truly “bless America.” We should pray that God will “heal our land.”
2 Chronicles 7:14 If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.
That requires that we first pray for repentance! We should also pray that God’s will be done by our leaders, and that peace be restored upon the earth.

2. By Living Godly Lives

Tertullian noted that, “the more anyone excels in godliness, the more effective the help that he renders to kings.” In context of that statement, we can see how our prayers would be more effectual if we excelled in godliness. But living godly helps us to zealously support our country in other ways:

• By not speaking evil of dignitaries
• By obeying the laws of the land
• By not displaying a rebellious spirit:
• respectful toward authorities
• not undermining public confidence, through slander and defamation of our leaders
• By publicly ascribing glory to God, the one whom our nation is under
• By truly appreciating the sacrifice of others who selflessly give of themselves on our behalf
• By thanking God daily, and never taking for granted our blessings
• By appreciating the freedom we have been granted to do God’s will and good pleasure
• By being grateful for a country God graciously gave to us...because He gives good gifts
• By resolving to always serve, praise, and worship Him even if this country and freedom are taken away
• By purposing in our heart to love our enemies and return good for evil
• By being a good steward of these manifold blessings
• By loving God (the giver of the gift) with all our mind, soul, and being, more than the gift itself


Christian Patriotism—Redefined

If we apply the definition of patriot spiritually, it would read:

“One who loves and zealously supports his own country—Heaven.”

Like Paul, we could say without reserve, “For our conversation (i.e., commonwealth) is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ” (Philippians 3:20). That, my friends, is a country and homeland worth “loving and zealously supporting.” In the truest sense of the word patris, it is the “FATHERland.” That definition of patriotism is not sinful, but blessed.

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Ezra 7:23

  • 23 Whatsoever is commanded by the God of heaven, let it be diligently done for the house of the God of heaven: for why should there be wrath against the realm of the king and his sons?
Friday 24-March, 2023