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  • Writer's pictureMatt Garris

Free for a Purpose (Part 1): Patriotism and Worship

Most Christians in the United States cite God as the source of their liberties and believe His will is for them to live freely. This is not surprising, as the United States was founded on the belief that all people have a God-given right to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” However, some people take the relationship between God and the United States a little farther. They view the United States as a new Israel, established as the new version of God’s chosen people through which He will bless the nations. Because of this, they view patriotism as a legitimate expression of religious devotion. But are they right?


Independence vs Freedom

Well, let’s first look at the difference between political independence and individual freedom. Independence and freedom are not the same thing. Independence leads to isolation. On an individual level, this is contrary to God’s plan. He wants us depending on one another. God tells us in Genesis 2:18 that “it is not good that man should be alone.” However, for a nation, independence allows its people to enjoy freedom. Freedom is God’s desire for everyone, but our fallen humanity has led to a lot of infringement on people’s personal freedoms. Thus, we should be grateful to live in a country which guarantees our God-given freedom.


Now, back to the question of whether patriotism is an appropriate expression of religious devotion. As a Christian and patriot, I often wonder how God sees the United States of America and His plans for it. As with many other aspects of our lives, His ways are not our ways. What we see and what He sees may be radically different.


Heavenly Citizenship

If we want to know what God thinks about something, we should begin to look in His word. Interestingly, the Bible does not mention the United States of America, not even in the end-time prophecies. Thus, we should beware of excessive nationalism or patriotism. When this world ends, and perhaps even before that time, the United States will no longer exist. We should not place our hope or faith in a man-made institution that will ultimately pass away. However, this should not be discouraging for believers.


Philippians 3:20 (NKJV) says that “our citizenship is in heaven.” While we may like it here on earth, it is not our ultimate home. We are of heaven, we represent heaven, and we are returning to heaven. The United States is just the place God has put us to represent His kingdom on this earth. Our loyalty must remain with the place of our eternal citizenship, heaven.


We have to love God more than we love the country of our earthly citizenship. Matthew 22:37 says the first and greatest commandment is to “love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.” That doesn’t mean 90% for God and 10% for Uncle Sam. It definitely doesn’t mean a 50/50 split of our loyalty. We are to worship God alone. As my friend Joey Weaver says, "If there's more energy in a patriotic church service than in any given church service, you should probably check the object of your worship." We must keep God first place in our lives.

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