Love of God and country?

God doesn’t share a platform.

 

I read that quote in the context of an article on patriotism and the church. It was cautioning those on Sunday who would seek to put their love of country ahead of their love of God in their worship services.

If I am honest, having grown up right in the buckle of the Bible belt all my life, I hadn’t given the patriotic-themed services much thought before. I am in a family of military servants, the daughter and granddaughter of veterans of wars. I truly enjoy holidays, especially the Fourth of July. History was my major for a while in college because of my love of the story of America’s founding.

Yet, somewhere along the way, and quite possibly never more prevalent than in the last two years, have I seen the absolute love of country come before the love of God here in America. Where our citizenship in a country that easily will pass away is far more important to us than our eternal citizenship in heaven.Where we wave our rights to land, jobs, ego and pride around rather than living humbly, seeking mercy, walking justly with our God.

Somewhere along that path the church got mixed up in it. Where we joined up patriotism with our Christianity and made them one. Love of God and country. I get it. Seriously I do, I do love the country I was fortunate to be born in, to call myself a citizen of. But when it comes before my walk with God? Well, it is simply idolatry. It’s valuing anything above God and His Word, my relationship with Him, what He has asked of my life as an heir, a child of God.

While I will watch fireworks tomorrow, sport my stars and stripes in my special POUND class and sing “God bless America” I know that it doesn’t come before God for me. He is a jealous God, One who doesn’t share a platform and most assuredly doesn’t put celebrating our independence ahead of our dependence upon Him. This isn’t a Jesus juke by any means, but thoughts on how we have so easily slid into the celebration of country even in worship services ahead of worshiping the glory of our God. It’s a conviction that our hearts value comforts of country over the conflicts of a Christian walk.

So maybe we shoot off fireworks, we grill out with family and friends, but we keep in mind the fleeting context of our country. We realize our citizenship in our country comes second to our citizenship in an eternal kingdom.

Living Sacrifices

It’s the 4th of July here in the States. A time when we celebrate our independence from that monarchy and reign of the British so long ago. I joked it was the original Brexit on a couple of social media platforms because IT WAS. We often take this time in America to show our respect for the Founding Fathers of our quite young nation (look at other countries y’all, we’re pretty green behind the ears still) and honor those who have sacrificed for our country through battles and wars.

We are very sentimental that way as Americans, remembering the sacrifices of others to give us the independence we exercise through tubing on the lake, shooting off fireworks until the neighbors call the cops, and playing Florida Georgia Line at top volume. We like that word sacrifice alot around this time of year, what with Memorial Day and 4th of July, and the regal nature in which we honor those that ultimately sacrificed their lives so that we can not be under a reign of a monarchy or dictatorship.

But I don’t think we like that word being applied to our lives, or what we are asked to do. It’s good for others, but no so much ourselves. Believe me when I say I wrestle with this just as much. Because sacrifice means something has to be given up, it has to be surrendered…or even killed. So I look at Paul’s words to the Romans in chapter 12 and start to see the bigger tension evolving.

“That you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service.” (Romans 12:1)

See we are living…breathing…acting…doing…and yet, we are to be sacrificing ourselves for God, to Him, because that is the reasonable response to the God who saves, redeems, loves and sacrificed Himself for us. It means to me I have to kill off myself in every moment, give myself over not to my whims, desires and emotions, but the Spirit within me. Not choosing this world (as Paul continues on telling us) to live into but transformed by Him in every single part of us. It is the surrender of ourselves for the sake of something better-the very best we could ever encounter, God Himself.

So when I want to dwell in this place of sacrifice and seeing how others have given of themselves I cannot help but look at the sacrifice of Christ and the daily act as this living being of sacrificing myself unto Him, His reign, His rule and His will. Not for some selfish pursuit or half-hearted liberty I can conjure up but for the ultimate liberty in Christ.  Not to pursue my own life, but one sacrificed fully for the very best thing…Christ.

Oh that I wish it were as easy as I like to deceive myself that it is. But sacrificing myself and all that selfish desire, ambition and emotion is hard. The person that says it’s easy is lying, but just because it is hard doesn’t mean I give in and lean back into a self-pursued life. It means going hard into transforming my mind, knowing my strength is not my own, but Christ’s in every. single. moment. if I but ask, seek with my heart. Y’all, this Christian life of sacrificial living isn’t easy but it’s worth it. It’s worth it to surrender my attitude, my mouth, my mind, my weakness…every single bit of me even the parts I really don’t want to give up, to know I am serving God in faith.

So where might you need to live as a sacrifice today? What area has God been hammering in on you that needs to be killed off in order to be set apart?