But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation…–I Peter 2:9
On Thursday of his last week, many of you gathered with friends and family, cooked out, shot fireworks, and listened to Lee Greenwood sing, “God Bless the USA.” But for some, it was difficult to celebrate, because it appears to them that America is celebrating a different kind of independence these days—a liberty that a Christian finds not liberating at all.
The Supreme Court ruled two weeks ago to extend legal recognition of traditional heterosexual marriage to homosexuals. With that ruling, the legal and cultural landscape in America changed in a monumental way, and it has left many Bible believing Christians anxious and questioning. How should we respond? Many will talk about the range of responses a Christian should have to moments like this, but that’s not what I want to address today. For now, let’s simply pause and be reminded of things we know but may have forgot.
Many Christians have long considered the U.S. to be a Christian nation, even believing in some cases that America enjoys a special manifest destiny in the unfolding of God’s redemptive plan. In recent days, however, Christians in America are finding that harder and harder to believe, as they see the once friendly and respectful relationship between American ideals and Christianity disappear— descending first into an uneasy and conflicted working arrangement and quickly advancing to outright opposition.
This ever shifting landscape is at least one reason why we must be careful to not syncretize Christianity with nationalism. Patriotism is not the same thing as worship, and believing and obeying the Bible is not synonymous with pledging allegiance to the flag. In one sense, the Supreme Court ruling only made plain what we know Biblically to be true. Our citizenship is in heaven, and we are strangers and exiles serving King Jesus in a foreign land (Philippians 3:20; I Peter 2:11). Though these truths may have not been as clear to us at certain times in our national history, the reality is that these truths have never ceased to be true.
St. Augustine helped Christians in Rome see that their confidence in the so-called “eternal city” was misplaced. Rome was only a city of man, and so it went the way of every city of man, and if Christ tarries long enough, so will we. This is why Augustine trained Christians to look and labor for the city that looked like a perfect marriage—a city that will come down out of heaven, as a Bride beautifully adorned for her husband (Revelation 21:2).
This city whose Maker and Builder is God (Hebrews 11:10) will arrive as a New Jerusalem and she will be the only true land of the free, for there she will dwell with her Groom, the Lord Jesus Christ, in perfect oneness with all splendor and glory for eternity.
Until that day, we do well to remember that geopolitical nations will continue to rise and fall, public policies will be passed, and Supreme Court rulings will be made. But take heart, this is not the end. The best is yet to come.
“The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand forever.” (Isaiah 40:8)