Saturday, October 11, 2008

Sin defined and Patriotism considered...

Just a few days ago some friends and I were discussing what sin is. Several of us see that sin is anytime, anytime at all, that we miss the mark of pleasing God.

One of the things I have noticed about sin is that we are drawn to it. We don't just suddenly get there. James says we are drawn away (from pleasing God) by our own hungers and desires, our lusts of various sorts. He also said that it takes time for that to become fully grown, but when it does, it is sin.

It is like coming to Jesus. Jesus said that if He was lifted up, then He would draw all men to Himself. Again, it is a process. First we introduce someone to Jesus and then they begin to see something compelling, something interesting in Him that increases their hunger to know Him better. Seeking to get to know Him is NOT discipleship. Choosing to follow Him as Lord and no one else IS discipleship. There are steps between being introduced and becoming a disciple - a growing process.

Since these are both processes, how can we tell them apart? It is actually not that hard. You just look where the process is leading you. Sin leads away from pleasing God. Jesus leads toward pleasing God.


Now that same group of friends and I who were discussing what sin is have also been discussing the role of national patriotism in the life of someone who submits to Jesus as their Lord. Jesus said, "Whoever loses his life for My (Jesus') sake, shall find it." But what does the patriot say? Lay down your life for your country. Tough choice, huh? Jesus or country?

When we claim to be both a disciple and a patriot for our physical nation, do we also become cats so that we seem to think we can lay down our lives more than once? Do we think Jesus was only speaking metaphorically? How real is dying to self? And does anyone question whether dying for their country is more than a metaphor?

In the first century, there was no metaphor in either case. You had to choose between dying for Jesus in the emperor's arena, or dying to Jesus and confessing the emperor as your god. Is there really any questioning that they could not choose both? One way lost self in order to live for Jesus and was sent to death by country, and the other way lost Jesus to preserve self in the service of emperor and country. There is no room to doubt that they had to make a very real choice between serving Jesus and serving Rome.

Jesus said you cannot serve both God and personal gain. You have to choose. If you try to serve two masters it is inevitable that you will fail. This is at the heart of why the health and wealth gospel is no real gospel at all. But some are also trying to tell us we can lay down our lives in service to both Jesus and country. Why can we not see the problem with this?

Does Jesus ever tell us to die for country? And if not, then who is it that has the power over our submission to Christ alone as Lord in order to tell us to die for country? Who competes for our lives - our loyalties - our allegiance? And if we pledge our lives to country, what is left to pledge to Jesus? Is He your life? or just a part of your life?

I know...I am not advocating the American patriot gospel. Shame on me, right?

Really? Shame on me for advocating that when we say ‘Jesus is my Lord’, we should really mean it??? What happens if and when there is a point of conflict between your patriotism and your devotion to Jesus?
What happens when your country (via your commanding officer) tells you to fight against and even kill a Christian brother or sister in an opposing nation's army? Where is our allegiance then? Surely their service to their country is as good as our own in God's eyes, right? If we can do both, then why can't they? Shall we choose country over one of God’s beloved?

We would consider it terrorism for someone to come into our assemblies and kill us all as patriotic Americans, right? We would consider it an act of war were someone to kill our soldiers, Christian or not, as they shared a prayer in a foxhole, right? How is it different if we do that to anyone else? Paul repented of killing Christians. He lost his life for Jesus only to later lose his head in the deal. Did he then ever seek to justify continuing to kill fellow followers of Jesus as being the actions of a good Jewish Christian? Did he keep on killing Christians in the service of his nation of Israel, or did he mean it when he chose allegiance to Jesus instead of allegiance to Israeli patriotism? What makes us think that our choice is to be any different than Paul’s choice?

I do not question the sincerity of those Christians who choose to go to war for their country. I do question their judgment and their understanding of what Jesus was and is all about. And it doesn’t make any difference to me what country it is that we are considering, even if it is the one where I was born and first heard the gospel. In Christ there is no difference between Jew and non-Jew. I try to be a good citizen, but when it comes right down to it, I choose Jesus over nation every time. Jesus is my Lord. My nation of residence is not my Lord.

What say you? Can someone be a nationalistic patriot and a Christian at the same time and do honor to both? Share your thoughts…