Monday, July 4, 2016

On Loving Your Country

U.S. Navy photo
If you live in the United States, like the bulk of this blog's readers do, you'll probably spend today celebrating Independence Day. This is where we band together and enjoy the fact that, despite it's many, many problems, flaws, disagreements, and odd way of choosing Presidents, we have a pretty good country here. Personally, I'm a big fan of the US and proud to be a citizen of this country.

Of course, most people probably felt the same way about their homelands down through the ages. Mongols were proud to be mongols, serfs were proud of their lords, and Romans thought it was an illustrious thing to be a Roman. Even St. Paul would pull out his Roman citizenship on occasion:
But Paul said to the police officers, “They had us beaten in public without a proper trial—even though we are Roman citizens—and they threw us in prison. And now they want to send us away secretly? Absolutely not! They themselves must come and escort us out!”
(Book of Acts 16.37)

Where Paul claimed his rights as a Roman

Real Country

Interestingly enough, a few years later Paul wrote a letter to the group of Jesus' followers in Philippi, the city where this happened. In it he makes a point that we 21st century US citizens would do well to keep in mind as we celebrate our country.

To the very people who had witnessed the Apostle forcefully insist on his citizenship in the only superpower of his time, Paul reminds them what country they really belong to.
But our citizenship is in heaven—and we also eagerly await a savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform these humble bodies of ours into the likeness of his glorious body by means of that power by which he is able to subject all things to himself.
(Philippians 3.20-21)

No matter what nation we live in or how much we may love it, members of the Christian movement have given their allegiance to another country and another ruler.

Paul had just finished writing this:

For this reason God raised him to the highest place above
     and gave him the name that is greater than any other name.
And so, in honor of the name of Jesus all beings in heaven, on earth, and in the world below
     will fall on their knees,
and all will openly proclaim that Jesus Christ is Lord,
     to the glory of God the Father. 

(Philippians 2.9-11, GNB)

I'm particularly fond of N.T. Wright's little quote, "If Jesus is Lord, then Caesar is not." Jesus of Nazareth is our true King now, and eventually everyone will "fall on their knees" to him.  Our knees -- the knees of the Christian movement -- have already had the privilege of bowing to him. We have independence from every 'Caesar' that rules anywhere.

Today amidst our fireworks and barbecue and current geopolitical dominance, remember who you really are and where you really live.

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