Tis the season to notice an uptick of patriotic memes, photos, and blog posts sprinkled generously throughout my Facebook feed. Folks who don’t strike me as overly patriotic will change their profile picture, quote famous Americans, or simply wish folks a happy and safe Fourth of July. I even made a passing reference to the holiday in my own status update. And yes, I am decked out in a red shirt and blue shorts to head out to the Goochland Drive-in Theatre tonight to enjoy hot dogs and a double feature with maybe even a few sparklers thrown in for good measure.
All of this got me thinking about what it means to be a good Christian citizen of these United States of America. There are some that will tell you that we needn’t focus too much on our earthly citizenship as we have a heavenly citizenship that is more important and eternal. That has always felt unsatisfactory to me. Jesus preached that the Kingdom of Heaven was at hand, that we as followers and disciples are partners in the active, dynamic exercise of God’s rule, authority, dominion, and power in the world. Every Sunday we pray together in worship, “Thy kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven.” We aren’t supposed to sit around, twiddling our thumbs until we get to heaven. We are to be working on bringing heaven down here to earth!
As Christian citizens, we should support and build up the ways in which government uses its power to improve individual lives and the common good. We certainly can’t expect government to do it all, but adequately caring for the “least of these” as Jesus admonishes us to do requires some government support. I appreciate this statement from Ellen Painter Dollar:
Our government is far from perfect, but it is still, in my mind, the greatest example of the good that be done via a democratic government of, by, and for the people. As Christians, we have an obligation to care for all of God’s people—even when it doesn’t seem quite fair; even when poverty results from a toxic and convoluted mix of a sinful communal history, bad or nonexistent policies, and poor personal decisions; even when our initial efforts to fix a [big]problem … might be clumsy and in need of fine-tuning.
And what makes America great is that we have freedom to go even above and beyond what the government is able and willing to do. We can join with others to provide medical service programs. We can teach immigrants English as a second language and help them find jobs with a living wage. There are so many ways to take care of one another. The sky is the limit.
So, this Independence Day celebrate your freedom, remember those who sacrificed to make it possible, and let your Christian and American freedom work together hand in hand to serve one another in love.