Now before faith came, we were held captive under the law, imprisoned until the coming faith would be revealed. So then, the law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith. But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian, for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise.
If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory. You have put off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its Creator. Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all, and in all.
Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body.
And be thankful.
I recently read an article listing 10 great things about America. And I agreed. Several things were listed about the country of which I’m an earthly citizen. Included in the list were the following: Diversity, Freedom of Religion, Beauty, Compassion in War, Generosity, Creativity and Opportunity.
In my lifetime, I’ve seen evidence of all of these. I scrolled the list and was thankful to be born in a country that had worked and fought and voted to maintain some of these important characteristics of our nation. Then I scrolled to the comment section. As usual, that was not the way to keep my warm fuzzy feeling. But it reminded me again that I should always be willing to take the humble posture of perspective.
Forgetting our differences for a moment to be unified around something bigger isn’t limited to politics. I absolutely love the unity I have with other Auburn fans all over the world. When we travel, a head nod accompanied by a “War Eagle!” is all that’s needed to acknowledge a previously unknown connection to the one passing by. I temporarily like them even though I don’t know them at all because I know we’re cheering for the same team. I love that Americans can unify around our nationality to cheer on our Olympians. This past year, I cheered for a few athletes from other countries. But I kept a close eye on our country’s medal count. There were athletes from all types of backgrounds competing on our team, and at the end of the day I was hoping that my country – as a whole – would be on top. I was FOR America, you could say.
I’m so very thankful to be born and raised here in the States. It’s all I’ve really known. I’ve had little opportunity to travel to other countries, but as I have done so I realized that America is comfortable for me because it has all my favorites. When I traveled, I realized how much I have become accustomed to the convenience of American living. What a wonderful country in which to live. That’s why I cheer for us as a nation. I want us to be great because I care about the people who live here. I am for us.
Even so, I can’t shake that deep feeling that as a Christ follower, this not my actual home and these aren’t my only people. And because of that, I think I sometimes miscommunicate my feelings about this great land. I don’t wish to be a citizen of another earthly country. I appreciate and enjoy very much my American citizenship. I’m deeply indebted to those who have worked and fought and even died for the comforts of liberty I daily experience. But if I don’t keep my greater citizenship in perspective, I do think that pride and prejudice can take root. If I don’t intentionally choose an open heart and humble words, there can be a subtle message communicated that because I am an American, I am one of God’s favorites. There’s an American pride that has made its way into our country and its churches that is not at all representative of the Gospel. When the cross takes a backseat to the flag in our conversations and concerns, there’s something very wrong. We must not replace our gratitude to God with an attitude of spiritual or biblical superiority.
The New Testament only talks about one citizenship. And it’s not one that we fought for or worked for. It is one that Jesus alone died for. And in that country there is only One that is glorified and honored and held high. I don’t wish to ever appear ungrateful for my earthly citizenship. Sometimes I speak with insensitivity regarding American pride, and that is wrong of me. What I mean to communicate is that I hold my US citizenship very loosely. And my desire is to “acknowledge that I am a stranger and exile on the earth … seeking a homeland. I desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one where God has prepared for me a city“.
I need to do a much better job expressing this sentiment. Because America is a great place to live. I love the land and the people. And yet, while I may pledge loyalty to this earthly country in which I live as a grateful citizen, my ultimate allegiance is to another. There’s really only one Christian nation/kingdom. And it is in light of that kingdom that I view everything. It is in light of that kingdom that I think and act and pray. I long to maintain focused vision on Jesus, the Author and Finisher of my faith.
Looking to Him alone, I always find that the things of earth are growing strangely dim. And that includes this land of the free that I temporarily call my home.