“He Has Risen” & “God Bless America” Lawn Ornaments, On Route 31 (Just North Of Beulah, MI), originally uploaded by takomabibelot.
Those of us who either grew up in the States or have lived there for a while are most likely familiar with the song “God Bless America.” It’s a song asking for, duh, God’s blessing on America. I don’t necessarily have an issue with the song. I am wary when I hear people sing it. There seems to be a sense of entitlement in the voices of those who sing it, as if it is expected for God to bless America because America is at the top of God’s “My Faves” list.
Don’t get me wrong. I was born in the States and appreciate the history and the tradition of democracy and independence which the US embodies. I also do think it is OK to ask for God’s blessing. I think, though, that a large segment of American Christians have allowed nationalistic pride to take hold of their Christianity and fuse their identity as a US citizen with their identity as children of the Kingdom of God.
One example of this is the continual misuse of 2 Chronicles 7:14:
“Then if my people who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sins and restore their land.”
If you grew up in church in the States, you probably heard this verse quoted many, many times in reference to America. The problem with this is that this verse had a very specific audience and a very specific purpose. I won’t go into it all, but Bob Robinson at Vanguard Church does a thorough job if you are interested (he uses stronger language than I would, but I agree with his overall point).
While, yes, this verse shows that we can pray for a nation, unfortunately we have wrongly assumed that we can take the specifics of this verse and transpose the nation of the United States and American Christians into it. By doing so we presume and promote the idea that America is somehow a “chosen nation” and that American Christians are “God’s chosen people.” We, in essence, claim that America has the same standing in God’s eyes as Israel did in the Old Testament: that salvation will come out of America. I know that some will balk at what I am saying and do the obligatory backpedaling that all good Christians are taught to do. I was taught to do it and have done it. But if we are truly honest with ourselves, most American Christians do feel some sort of entitlement or feeling that we are more blessed than other nations.
This idea that any nation is any more blessed or any more held up in God’s eyes than any other nation is dangerous. When Christ came, the mark of being God’s people transcended physical traditions of laws and sacrifices and circumcision. The mark of being God’s people became faith in Christ and our love of God and others.
Does that mean there is no room for pride in one’s nation? Of course not. My family and I will be making our trek south of the border (when you live in Canada, south of the border isn’t Mexico) to celebrate the birth of our home nation by wearing red, white and blue and watching fireworks.
What we need to be careful of is to remember that being a follower of Christ transcends any other citizenship or membership we may have to any nation, people group, denomination or culture. When asked what the most important commands were (what were the most important distinguishing markers of children of God), Jesus answered this in Mark 12:
“The most important commandment is this: ‘Listen, O Israel! The LORD our God is the one and only LORD. And you must love the LORD your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength.’ The second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ No other commandment is greater than these.”