07/04/2021 – The answer to this question depends on the meaning of the word “patriotic.” As with many words, there are different nuances of meaning, and different people use the word in different ways. For example, at its simplest meaning being patriotic simply means “loving one’s country.” As long as that love for country does not supersede one’s love for God, and if it is kept in proper perspective, there is nothing wrong with a Christian being patriotic. However, another definition of “patriotic” implies that the individual should place the interests of the nation above his or her personal and group interests. Carried to this extreme, patriotism can become a form of idolatry, particularly if one’s love for his country is greater than his love for God and God’s plan of redeeming people from “every tribe, tongue and nation.”
As far as a Christian’s responsibility towards government, we know from Romans 13:1-7 that we are to be subject to the governing authorities and to honor them, even when they are not honorable, because it is ultimately God who has placed them in authority over us. So, as Christians, we are under obligation to God to be model citizens, subject to the governing authorities over us by obeying laws, paying taxes, etc. However, our responsibilities are first and foremost to be obedient to God. In America, a constitutional republic where individual citizens have the ability to change and influence government by voting or by being politically involved when appropriate and in appropriate ways, part of being a good citizen is voting and having whatever positive influence we can on government.
In countries where Christians have no say in the decisions of their leaders, it is more difficult to be patriotic. It is very hard to love oppressive governments. However, as Christians we are still obligated to pray for our leaders (1 Timothy 2:1-4). God will honor our obedience to this command, and in His perfect timing, He will judge leaders who turn away from Him.
Should a Christian be patriotic? Within reason, yes. At the same time, a Christian’s ultimate faith, love, and obedience are to be reserved for God alone.
To take it a bit further…It is more than singing patriotic songs, waving the flag, and feeling emotionally stirred over our nation’s heritage. I enjoy all that but patriotism is more that that.
Patriotism isn’t hostility…
I’ve seen a lot of hostility expressed in the name of patriotism. It’s very easy to demonize those who take opposing stands with regard to political issues. We can hold strong convictions regarding political matters, but we need to be civil toward opposing views. We can disagree but not hate one another. After all, in America we have freedom to do just that!
Patriotism isn’t a license to sin…
Americans make a big deal about freedom…but for many, freedom is the right to do anything. Taken to an extreme, freedom is anarchy and lawlessness. Society needs some rules in order to maintain order. For example, if we had the freedom to drive however we wanted (some people I’ve seen think they have this already), consider how dangerous the roads would be! When I have travelled overseas, I was told there were no traffic laws, only “suggestions”. If you’re stopped at a red light, and no one’s coming, the guy behind you will honk his horn and yell at you to go already! People claim you can’t legislate complete morality, yet if you think about it, most laws have a basis in what we believe is moral behavior and fairness. Total liberty often means the free expression of immorality. True patriotism recognizes that we answer to a higher authority, that it matters how we live as citizens in a world God created.
Patriotism isn’t a “free ride”…
Adlai Stevenson set forth that “Patriotism is not short, frenzied outbursts of emotion but the tranquil and steady dedication of a lifetime.” JFK had it right—what can we do for our country? What contribution can we make to help preserve our nation and our way of life? How can we impact our nation morally, especially to preserve the values upon which America was founded? We can make a difference by being a voice in the marketplace of ideas–whether we write a letter to a newspaper editor, call a Congressman, or run for public office ourselves. I understand that many of the committees and positions in town government are unpaid positions. Those who serve are giving back to their community. As we teach our children to appreciate America, we need to rekindle this principle of selfless service.
Patriots are people who care about this country, and what it stands for. Patriots are people who recognize the benefits of the Constitution, people who hope to preserve our nation’s values. A patriot is one who votes, earns an honest living, studies our nation’s history and knows what is going on today.
Regardless of what it says on our passports, as Christians, we hold dual citizenship. We’re loyal to our native home, but we recognize that we’re also part of the Kingdom of God. If we at times feel uncomfortable, it’s because we’re not really home yet. The Bible tells us to submit to, respect, and pray for those in governmental authority, but it also lets us know Who our Sovereign is. We are citizens of Heaven and subjects of the King of kings.
In the movie Chariots of Fire, Scottish runner Eric Liddel is faced with an ethical dilemma. Does he run his Olympic event on the Lord’s Day, against his convictions, or does he refuse and disobey his king? Liddel decided his priority was God over king. He respectfully declined the race and was allowed to participate in a different event on a weekday…and won the gold medal. This is a true story. Liddel went on to serve as a missionary to China.
Patriotism isn’t blind or uninformed. It’s certainly appropriate to be proud to be an American, but there are times when our love for our country demands that we stand up and voice our concern when our nation is headed in the wrong direction. If and when we disagree with policy, we don’t leave the country, as some people in the news have threatened. We don’t begin destroying the country as we have witnessed many trying to do. Patriotism involves taking a stand, writing letters to those in authority, and supporting candidates whose ideology concurs with our convictions.
Patriotism is not equal to the number of flags we fly but by living the courage of our convictions, which may mean having to take a stand, and certainly the offering of prayers for justice and national repentance.
I believe America is a noble country that faces historical wrongs and moves to make things right. I believe America should never cut God out of the national conversation. I believe we should pray for our country. I believe we should support what’s right and pray for evil to be confounded and those who work such evil to be defeated. I believe we should never turn from the Word of God but turn to it for guidance. We live in the greatest country in the world. My prayer is that it continues to be great!
Thank you for reading and I hope this helps.
Pastor Linzy Slayden
Friendship Baptist Church, Owasso, OK