The 4th of July a fun summer holiday that involves vacations, fireworks, and family. It is a celebration of the founders of this country declaring themselves independent of the imperial British crown. Of course there would be a fight to make the declaration a reality but the fact that they were successful leads me here 240 or so years later writing and reflecting on the Independence of America and what that means in this present time.
I love America as it is where I was born and it is where I have lived all my life. There is no other place on earth that is as wealthy and free. When I was a child patriotism was common place and I could not imagine a more noble fight than the cold war against communism. America representing red, white, and blue standing for freedom and liberty. The Soviet Union representing cold lies and imprisonment of their people. The millennial generation does not view the world that way. They have been taught that America should apologize for its own imperial ways. In the current political view America is a racist evil country and patriotism represents isolationism and xenophobia. For all the faults of America past and present, and yes many of those faults are evil, there is no other governance that has provided so much fairness and justice. (I would love to hear from the readers if they disagree with me on this) What I would say to those who have been on the evil end of racism, theft, and cruelty I humbly apologize as a citizen of this country and I would point to a real desire of most citizens to rectify those evils and move forward in unity if possible. If one is looking for perfect fairness and perfect justice on this earth or in any governance please understand it will not be found. People and organizations run by people will always fall short. Assume that one agrees that America is a great country worth celebrating how then should one celebrate?
20 But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, Philippians 3:20 ESV
Paul tells us that as followers, born again, of Christ that there is a new citizenship in heaven. Heaven has its own community, governance, and rights. However that kingdom is not where Christians currently live so they must live and wait in whatever current kingdom they are in on this earth. So live and celebrate as dual citizens. Celebrate what is worthy about this temporary citizenship and join in the community.
27 Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel, Philippians 1:27 ESV
Paul’s expectation of the Philippian church is that they would live life in their community in a way that is “worthy” of Christ. That means Christians being dual citizens should be of one mind working for the good of those around them bringing light into a dark world. Christians need to be participating in citizenship in such a way that they point toward an eternal king and kingdom. Christians should live, work, and participate to as citizens of the earthy kingdom where they live and there is much to celebrate in that regard.
However Christians should not become embroiled in the rivalries of power to the neglect of building peace and community. Paul was arrested because of the gospel of Jesus and because of his Roman citizenship he was afforded a trail. In one of the hearings his character was attacked but he took advantage of the personal rivalries and politics of the day.
6 Now when Paul perceived that one part were Sadducees and the other Pharisees, he cried out in the council, “Brothers, I am a Pharisee, a son of Pharisees. It is with respect to the hope and the resurrection of the dead that I am on trial.” 7 And when he had said this, a dissension arose between the Pharisees and the Sadducees, and the assembly was divided. 8 For the Sadducees say that there is no resurrection, nor angel, nor spirit, but the Pharisees acknowledge them all. 9 Then a great clamor arose, and some of the scribes of the Pharisees’ party stood up and contended sharply, “We find nothing wrong in this man. What if a spirit or an angel spoke to him?” 10 And when the dissension became violent, the tribune, afraid that Paul would be torn to pieces by them, commanded the soldiers to go down and take him away from among them by force and bring him into the barracks. Acts 23:6-10 ESV
Christians should fully utilize and leverage their citizenship in an earthy kingdom fighting for justice, peace, and equal application of the law. They should like Paul be good citizens even if personally attacked.
And looking intently at the council, Paul said, “Brothers, I have lived my life before God in all good conscience up to this day.” Acts 23:1 ESV
In good conscience Paul tells his peers that he has lived as a good citizen and he proves that they are the ones that have attached themselves to a political system that practices, what one might call a politics of personal destruction where disagreements of policy become violent when the right buttons are pushed. Dear brothers and sisters in Christ do not become one of these political people where the emotions of the moment override the knowledge that these kingdoms and political systems will all one day bow to the King of Kings Christ Jesus.
As a citizen of America celebrating Independence day I hope we all would pause and think on the ideals that make America the greatest Nation on earth.
8 Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. Philippians 4:8 ESV