Distance from one’s home can provide valuable perspective on the effects of cultural customs on society. Often, after returning home from serving overseas, American missionaries are struck by the amount of patriotism present in this nation—not just within pop-culture, but also within the local church.
The patriotism celebrated in America is both warranted and good, serving as a unifying factor that binds the nation together. In fact, Scripture calls believers to be thankful for what they have received. For American Christians, this includes gratitude for our national heritage. National pride is important, as it flows from a deep respect and appreciation for those who have fought for the freedoms this nation affords, such as the right to worship God freely.
Dangers of Patriotism
However, a dangerous issue can arise for the one who clings too closely to his or her national identity. Scripture calls believers “ambassadors for Christ” (2 Cor. 5:20, ESV) and “sojourners and exiles” (1 Pet. 2:11 ESV) on of this earth, indicating that heavenly citizenship is primary to national identification. If the Christian’s “citizenship is in heaven” (Phil. 3:20 ESV), not on this earth, then believers must be wary of these often conflicting loyalties.
IMB’s Caleb Crider recently had a conversation with Trevin Wax, B&H Bible and Reference publisher at Lifeway Christian Resources, to discuss this intersection of patriotism and global missions—a subject that often causes tension between Christians’ loyalties.
Biblical teaching that our fundamental identity is found in heaven, not on this earth, must undergird any conversation about national identity. Thus, believers must be bound more closely to the heavenly kingdom than to earthly ones, never allowing earthly allegiances to distract from proliferating Christ’s kingdom. Check out the video above for some informative conversation on the topic. This matter overflows into everything the believer does, every decision made, and every worldview held. It’s important that we engage.
Gardner Davis is a student in the US and currently works as a content editor and social media associate with the IMB.