Principles for Patriotism

And seek the peace of the city whither I have caused you to be carried away captives, and pray unto the Lord for it: for in the peace thereof shall ye have peace. Jeremiah 29:7

There is a strange wonder in some Christian circles: a mindset that sees patriotism as something close to ungodliness. And if some who embrace this mindset do not mark it down as ungodly, at least they are embarrassed by it. However, though we don't want to condone a sort of blind allegiance to our particular nation, we need to recognize that there are in fact Biblical principles that should propel us to a thankful and humble and courageous patriotism.

First of all, there is the principle of loving one's neighbor. Martin Luther famously said that as "the Christian is supposed to love his neighbor, and since his wife is his nearest neighbor, she should be his deepest love." A corollary of that principle would be that since those who have their home with us in the nation in which we live are closer to us than those who do not, our first commitment is to them. This does not mean we become snobs or denigrate those from other places (and it certainly does not mean that we despise immigrants, Exod. 22:21, for they too share their home, even if temporarily, with us in our land). But we cannot serve everyone equally and we cannot love everyone equally. Patriotism is on one level simply the recognition that nearness determines how we love our neighbors.

Second, there is the principle of prayer. Again, we cannot pray for everyone and everything. Once again, the principle of nearness dictates how we do this. We pray for our neighbors as we love them. We pray for our cities and our states and our country. We pray for the leaders of our land (1 Tim. 2:1-4). I'm not of course saying that we should never pray for people in other lands. But as a Christian, praying for my country is one of the very best ways I can express my patriotism. And if God required the exiled Israelites to pray for the places to which they were carried captives, how much more should we pray for our country which we have long called our home? It was one of the arguments of the early Christian apologists that they prayed for the Emperor of the Roman Empire, even as he persecuted the church. It is part of our duty, our witness, as well as an expression of our patriotism to pray for our country.

Third, there is the principle of thankfulness. I'm not saying that we are to be thankful for every aspect of our country and its history. That is the kind of blind patriotism that is rightfully detested. But it is wrong for us to be blind in another sense - to be blind to all the good and wonderful things that God has done for and in and through this country. And make no mistake about it - God is the author of the blessings of this nation. The liberty and freedom we possess, the rule of law, the institutions of our government, the prosperity we enjoy, and many other things are truly reasons to be thankful for our country. Yes, we have done some very bad things in our past (and the present still provides many matters of concern). But one of things I love about my country is that we have tended to correct our mistakes - even if it takes longer than it should. Slavery was a terrible institution, but it was outlawed, though it took a massive civil war to make it happen. The Jim Crow laws in the South were an awful blight on our country, but they are no more. Roe v. Wade was a terrible sore festering over the deaths of millions of innocent children - but it also is no more, thank God!

I love my country and I am thankful for it. And though my ultimate citizenship is in heaven, and though in a very real sense every Christian is an exile in the land in which they find themselves (1 Peter 1:1, 17), yet that does not nullify the glad recognition we should have of the blessings we enjoy in our country. We are to pray for the city in which we are exiles, as the prophet Jeremiah reminds us. Though I don't want to worship my country, I do want to thank God today, on this Day of Independence, for the blessings we have and enjoy. Indeed, may God bless the United States of America and give her peace.

By: Jeremiah Bass