Can a Christian also be patriotic? I believe so, and consider myself a Christian and a patriot. I love Christ Jesus and I love my country, the United States of America. It is possible to love God and country.
Michael Bryant, Dean of the School of Christian Studies at Charleston Southern University, said recently, "I don't think that showing love for one's country or region is wrong. As Americans, we have much to be thankful for, especially in regard to freedom of religion. A Christian goes too far in his patriotism when it causes him to have a greater devotion for his country than for God and His kingdom (Matt. 6:33)."
Thom Rainer, president of Lifeway Christian Resources, has cited five reasons believers should be patriotic: "God uses government for His good (Rom. 13:4); We should have an attitude of gratitude (Phil. 4:4); We should understand the issue of sacrifice better than anyone; The heart of our nation is God-centered; and We are called to be on mission where we are."
Christians who are patriotic put God first. Their patriotism is tempered and defined by their trust in Christ and their faith in the Scriptures. Jesus taught us to render to God the things that are God's and to Caesar the things that are Caesar's.
July fourth is a national holiday set aside here to celebrate our freedom which has been given to us through the gracious hand of God. America has been referred to as the world's great experiment in freedom. We have certainly been blessed. Our flag and our patriotic songs stir me with deep emotion, but not as much as our Savior and the songs of grace that honor His name. Our founding fathers established the foundation of this nation on the basis of the truths found in the Bible. We have been given great freedom. We have also fought for freedom both for ourselves and others. Despite our shortcomings, and even actions of our own government, we still have freedom. Our heritage is strong. Our present situation is tenuous and our future is uncertain. But our God is the same yesterday, today, and forever.
President Ronald Reagan said, "Freedom prospers when religion is vibrant and the rule of Law under God is acknowledged. Concentrated power has always been the enemy of liberty." In his Gettysburg address, President Abraham Lincoln spoke of government "of the people, by the people, and for the people." The Declaration of Independence, The Constitution, and The Bill of Rights are great documents. The Word of God is immeasurably greater, though, and it is the influence of God's Word on these documents that makes them so powerful.
Freedom can be taken away. In fact, at any given time in our history, we have been and are today only one generation away from losing the freedom that has become the theme of America.
Benjamin Franklin, one of our founding fathers, said, "Only a virtuous people are capable of freedom." It is my prayer that we reach the next generation with the Gospel of Jesus Christ and that we disciple them to become virtuous followers of Christ. More than anything else, that will help ensure the continuance of freedom in this land we love.
May God bless the Christian citizens of America and make them a blessing to this great land-for the His greater glory and the good of the country and her people.
James Rudy Gray is certified as a professional counselor by the National Board for Certified Counselors, and is a member of the American Association of Christian Counselors. He serves as the editor of The Baptist Courier, the official newspaper of the South Carolina Baptist Convention.