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America Ain’t the Promised Land but it’s the Land I Love: Why I Serve

Image courtesy of Michael Elliott at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of Michael Elliott at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

A lot of Christians seem to believe that America is the new Promised Land – that somehow the blessings and promises God gave Israel that are recorded in the Old Testament somehow have carried over to us. It’s not true, but I’ve run into that line of thinking a lot.

Israel was called as God’s people group – called to represent God to the world. Part of that calling was the promise of land and blessing. That promise is not for us because we are not part of Old Testament Israel. In the New Testament the Apostle Paul, a good Jew, declares that being part of God’s people is no longer about ethnicity but about faith.

I bring this up because many people in the United States seem to confuse faith and patriotism, as though they are interchangeable. If one is a patriot one must be a good Christian. If one is a Christian one must be a good patriot. Our military men and women almost take on demi-god like status on Veterans Day, Memorial Day, and the 4th of July. On these special weekends many churches seem to forget what our real object of worship is supposed to be. Jesus gets put on the back burner for the American flag, patriotic songs, and pomp and circumstance (not all churches, I know, but some do).

In the Old Testament there was a mix between the nation and faith. In fact, when Joshua led the Army around Jericho the priests led the way!

The Lord said to Joshua, “Look, I have handed Jericho, its king, and its fighting men over to you. March around the city with all the men of warm circling the city one time. Do this for six days. Have seven priests carry seven ram’s horn trumpets in front of the arc. But on the seventh day, march around the city seven times, while the priests blow the trumpets… (Joshua 6:2-4)

Chaplains lead the way!

But that’s not who God’s people are any more. We’re not a nation looking to take the land God has given us. We are a people of faith in Jesus. That faith is what brings us into community, not land or birthright. What I do as a Soldier is not because God has called America to be His nation. This is not His nation (any more than England, Russia, New Zealand, etc.), and the whole “If my people will turn…” is not a promise to Americans.

So why do I serve?

I have long felt a call to service and to ministry. I had considered the police department. I had considered being a military pilot. The idea of serving the community and/or country greatly appeals to me – to be part of something much bigger than myself, to contribute to the general welfare. But that would not allow me to carry out my calling to minister to people. But being in ministry wouldn’t allow me to fulfill my calling to serve.

So for me the Chaplaincy was a perfect fit. I get to exercise both aspects of my calling: to minister to people and to serve the nation. Not because this is God’s nation, but because I believe in the ideals of a democratic republic – because I affirm with Winston Churchill:

It has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except all the others that have been tried.

On this Veterans Day I want to say “Thank you!” to everyone who has served or currently serves in any element of the U.S. Armed Forces, Active, Reserve, and Guard. This country is what it is because of men and women like you.

And, while this nation is not blessed because of our special relationship to God, I think it’s a pretty great place – and I wouldn’t choose to live anywhere else.

Happy Veterans Day! God bless!

veterans-day

Related Posts:
Patriotism Vs. Faith
The Decline of Christianity in the U.S. Army

The Rebellious American Spirit

Image courtesy of graur razvan ionut at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of graur razvan ionut at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

In case there was any doubt in your mind, yes – Americans have a rebellious spirit. You can see this most evidently in political diatribes on social media. We love to stick it to each other. We rail against the horrible policies of our opponents and those of differing agendas and parties.

In extreme cases, I’ve seen people call for Soldiers to openly rise up and seize the White House and remove the President from power. In less extreme cases, I’ve seen people call all sorts of horrible names and level all sorts of wicked accusations against politicians with whom the accusers disagree. It seems that there is no such thing as civil discourse any more.

What really saddens me is how quickly Christians jump on board with this kind of behavior. It’s as though we are giving in to our basest nature and forgetting the Godly nature that is supposed to now guide us. We justify our behavior and our language in all sorts of ways – trying to find an excuse for why we’re calling Senator So-and-So a poo-poo head or linking the President to Hitler. It goes on and on.

The simple fact is this – I don’t see any cause in the Bible for treating people like this. The Apostle Paul seems pretty straightforward:

Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong.

Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and you will be commended. For the one in authority is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for rulers do not bear the sword for no reason. They are God’s servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also as a matter of conscience. This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God’s servants, who give their full time to governing. Give to everyone what you owe them: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor. (Romans 13:1-7)

Of course, Paul’s “governing authorities” were not the duly elected officials of our era. We’re talking about the Emperor and his governors. You know…the ones who put Christians to death. And still Paul calls us to surrender our rebellious spirit to God and to subject ourselves to the authorities. If God is really in control of this world, then even the authorities we despise are part of his plan.

Politically minded Christians are the worst, because we tend to justify our behavior with the God-card – trying to mix our politics and faith. Missiologist Ed Stetzer recently wrote: When you mix politics and religion you get politics.

Even when we disagree with the policies and decisions of the elected officials, let us make sure that we are not embracing a sinful rebellious spirit but can submit; Republican, Democrat, Independent, whomever.

No matter what happens in the country, this world is not our home. Our ultimate allegiance is not to the flag but to our God. Eventually you will get jerked around by government and organizations – it’s the nature of the beast (yes, pun intended). But take it with a measure of grace and know that God’s got bigger plans than American health care, or gay marriage, ____________ (insert the issue of your choosing).

No matter what happens God is still God.

Related Posts:
Patriotism Vs. Faith
Why The American War For Independence Was Unbiblical
Why You Need to Leave the President Alone

Obama, Christianity and Immigration Reform

Image courtesy of twobee at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of twobee at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

The news is reporting that Mr. Obama is moving to shield millions of illegal immigrants. It seems the Left and the Right are back at it – fighting for their particular view of what is right.

Before I even began to write this post I knew that immigration reform is a very charged topic. I also no that there is no monolithic Christian perspective on the issue. In fact, immigration is largely a national issue and not so much a spiritual one. That is to say, the bible never addresses how to handle immigration reform. The Bible DOES talk about foreigners and aliens and how to treat them. The Bible also addresses how to help those in need. Those are the issues we’ll look at today. Do you remember that movie Short Circuit from a while back? It’s about the robot that comes alive and has personality. The movie is filled with issues of identity: identity we give ourselves and identity given to us by others.short circuit On of my favorite scenes has two of the main characters talking and one asks the other about his identity – his heritage.

The white guy asks his (seemingly obvious) co-worker from India: “Where are you from?” To which his colleague responds: “Pittsburgh, originally.” 🙂

The passenger had a whole heap of presupposed ideas about his friend’s identity. This is part of our problem when it comes to immigration. We assume an “us vs. them” attitude. In the Old Testament we find that God gladly welcomes foreigners and aliens into the community of faith. Not only were they welcome but God saw to it that there were treated fairly and without discrimination.

God loves Foreigner?!?
God loves Foreigner?!?

When a foreigner resides among you in your land, do not mistreat them. The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt. I am the Lord your God. ~ Leviticus 19:33-34 There is no room for an “other-than” mentality – they become us. Many Americans seem to hold to an immigration policy that embraces this wrong thinking. Heck, we still struggle with oppression and discrimination among natural-born citizens. The foreigner doesn’t stand a chance.

But God’s people are supposed to act fairly and inclusively no matter what. The New Testament letter of James tells us that our words need to match our actions. If we believe in a God that cares about people then so should we. It does no good to wish someone well if we fail to back up those words with our actions. I know that James wasn’t addressing international politics but I do believe that his words ought to make us think twice about how we behave towards foreigners looking to move to America.

While it may seem that I am in favor of flinging wide our national borders to any and all comers, I am not. I think that legal immigration should be embraced. I think that illegal immigration should be quashed. During the Exodus, when God freed Israel from slavery in Egypt, God made a provision to care for foreigners. The only stipulation was that Israel’s law would apply to the foreigners as well. In this case it meant circumcision. That’s a steep price to pay for citizenship! If foreigners want to legally immigrate and make our laws their laws I believe we should welcome them whole-heartedly.

Where I personally draw the line is when people look to circumvent laws for their own betterment. When all is said and done I know there is no easy answer or fix to immigration reform. I know that Christians will approach the issue from several perspectives and reach differing conclusions.

Regardless of how America addresses the issue as a nation, I believe Christians need to wrestle with these Bible verses and ask if we’re treating people the way God would want us to treat them. And remember – go back far enough and we’re all from somewhere else (even the “Native Americans”).

How about you? Have you given any thought to how God wants you to treat foreigners and aliens?

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