I am proud to be an American. I'm a loyal U.S. citizen. My eyes will very likely get misty tonight when I hear "Proud to be an American" at the fireworks show (because they always play it...and I always get mushy in that song). I am thankful that God blessed me with the opportunity to be born in this country. There are so many things that I love about it.
This is the first 4th of July ever, though, that I'm feeling a little bit of tension, I have to admit. Among all of the things God has been awakening me to over the past few months has been this question of where my true allegiance lies. Because as great as it is to be proud of my country, is that where my allegiance has been stopping? Does my love for people stop at the border of my own country? According to 2 Corinthians, we are ambassadors for Christ. Our citizenship is in heaven; we are foreigners on this planet. An ambassador speaks in a foreign country on behalf of his king. What if we were to send an ambassador to another country but instead of speaking on behalf of our country, he got so comfortable with the culture that he chose to settle down, buy a house, switch his citizenship, and forgot his purpose? What would we do? We’d cut him off and send another one in his place! But what about me? I am an ambassador for Christ but sometimes I feel like I have chosen a different purpose and have gotten way too comfortable in this world and in our society (especially in America!).
I have a frustration with the label “Christian”…how we use it as an adjective and not a noun. We say that he’s a “Christian doctor” or she’s a “Christian teacher”. But this seems to indicate that he’s a doctor who just happens to be a Christian or she’s a teacher who just happens to be a Christian. This is not our true identity; we are strangers in this world! So what if instead, we started thinking of him as “a Christian ambassador disguised in the world as a doctor” or her as a “Christian ambassador disguised in the world as a teacher”. It totally changes our perspective. Even more than a Tennessean or a Republican or a Democrat or an American, I am a Christian ambassador. And that changes the way that I see EVERYTHING. It changes who I consider “family”. Jesus gave us a new definition of family. He said that once we accepted Christ, we were adopted into the family of God and that we have a new set of brothers and sisters that runs deeper than biology or geography or nationality. In Irresistible Revolution, Shane says it this way: “A love for our own relatives and a love for the people of our own country are not bad things, but our love does not stop at the border. Jesus is telling us that we have family in Iraq, in Afghanistan, in Palestine. We have family members who are starving and homeless, or dying of AIDS, or in the midst of war.” I’m coming face to face with the reality that I have not always viewed the world this way. I have subconsciously held this “us” and “them” mentality. I look back on the way I felt after September 11 and am convicted of the fact that my love simply reflected the borders and allegiances of the world. I mourned the deaths of each American soldier, but did not feel the same anger or passion or pain for each Iraqi death. But their lives are just as precious, no more, no less. That’s hard for me to wrap my mind around, especially when you start talking about the lives of the terrorists who are responsible for the 9/11 attacks. The fact that God loves Osama bin Laden as much as he does Mother Theresa. I can’t comprehend it.
So it's not like I'm saying that it's bad that we are proud of our country and have a love and loyalty to it. But I pray that we would always remember that even more than being Americans, we are ambassadors for another kingdom! I’m praying that God would give me eyes to see the world more like He does. That my central identity and allegiance would no longer be national. But that my allegiance would be to the Kingdom of God…and that my new “us” would be the church, the people of God, whether they be in America or in Iraq or in Afghanistan.