By Daniel Darling, Vice President for Communications at the ERLC and author of The Original Jesus. Daniel hosts The Way Home Podcast and blogs at danieldarling.com.
My favorite vacation, as a child, was a trip to Washington, D.C. We piled into our silver Chevy station wagon and drove from the Chicago suburbs, through Pennsylvania. In a week, we managed to squeeze in most of the major monuments and landmarks that shape our country’s history.
We toured the battlefield of Gettysburg, reliving, via audio and lighted map, the bloody battled between the North and the South and tried to imagine how homes, families, and friendships were divided. We stood before the magnificent Lincoln memorial, where, as a twelve-year old boy, I wept in admiration at the courage of one of our greatest leaders who gave his life to both end slavery and save the Union. We visited the White House, we toured the Pentagon, and we browsed the National Archives and Smithsonian museums. We walked the hushed and somber Arlington National Cemetery, whispering silent thanks for the many who gave their lives for our freedom.
This was a trip that cemented in me a lifelong love of America and a love of her history. But as much as I love our country, I realize that I am not ultimately a citizen of the USA, but of the kingdom of Christ. I pray that America will live on for centuries, providing hope and freedom to millions, but I know that one day she will join other faded kingdoms of history. Only Christ’s eternal reign will be forever.
I can root for America as a citizen of the kingdom of God because like the Hebrew exiles in Babylon, I should seek her welfare. Many of Jeremiah’s audience in Jeremiah 29 were being mislead by escapist theology, by prophets who told them not to put down roots because they’d soon be delivered back to the Promised Land. Similarly, we should, in our American communities, put down roots. We should seek to shape the policies of our cities, states, and nation because we love our neighbors and care about their flourishing.
When we work for good policies, when we root for America, when we get involved in the nitty gritty of politics and shaping our civic institutions, we are showing the world a glimpse of the future kingdom of God, where Jesus will make all things new.
Of course we root for America, not because we put our ultimate faith in a political movement or system or party, but because we hold these things loosely, knowing that God is gathering history to himself and is sovereign over the movement of the nations (Acts 17:26-27). Our love for America should never be blind love, but willing to see the deep faults and national sins. In a broken world even the best systems of government leave some vulnerable behind; even in the best countries, there are pockets of injustice. The Bible speaks a word to the culture, both in a prophetic voice against evil and a gospel voice of hope for sinners.
This Acts 1:8 kind of patriotism, that sends us on mission locally, nationally, and internationally, allows us to love our closest neighbors, love our neighbors across the ocean, and love those whom God is sending form around the world to form our communities.
As citizens of America, formed by our citizenship of the kingdom of God.