A Better Country
by Mary Van Nattan
11:16 But now they desire a better country,
The Trouble with Patriotism
There are a lot of people who are very caught up in patriotism. Here in the United States it is often equated with being a "good Christian." That is to say, if you are a "good Christian" you will also be patriotic, you will also "love your country", and your allegiance will be to the "good, ol' USA". "God and country" is a common theme, though I'd say that "country and God" was a better word order judging by people's speech and actions.
This is an election year in the U.S. and emotions will be running high in many churches. Politics is a BIG subject and many pastors will be openly or covertly plugging for the candidate they want all "their members" to vote for. (Too bad more of them don't think of the people as God's heritage, as it really is, and let Him lead the people to vote or not vote as HE sees fit. 1 Peter 5:3 Neither as being lords over God's heritage, but being ensamples to the flock.)
Another common thing we see among American Christians is the "need", even urgency, to "rescue America" and "restore it to it's Christian foundation." These people talk, dream and try to live in the context of "restoring America". I've even heard people go so far as to say that it is our responsibility to "make the leaders of this country live by the Constitution." Some even suggest a new revolution to enforce this. (You won't find a chapter and verse to support that one, by the way.)
Unfortunately, many of these people either don't know or don't bother to get the whole truth. This nation had a salted origin, but it never had Christian foundations. The "founding fathers" were a hodgepodge of deists, agnostics, possible Christians, and probable Christians (...the LORD looketh on the heart, 1 Sam. 16:7). The U.S. Constitution is not a Christian document, and it does not take long to find things in it that are contrary to the word of God. Nevertheless, there are many Christians today who are under the delusion that this country was somehow "Christian" at one time. This is ignorance, whether willful or otherwise. The only real way that a nation could be "Christian" is if every citizen were a born again believer. This is not possible in this present evil world (Gal. 1:4).
It is grievous to see God's people putting nationalism and patriotism before our true Christian heritage. Our "Christian heritage" IS NOT connected with the history of the USA in any way. Jesus Christ is our only foundation!
When American Christians, or any other Christians in the world, begin to connect their faith with patriotism, nationalism or tribalism they are building on another foundation. Or, they are building wood, hay and stubble upon the foundation of Christ. They will not receive a reward for these wasted efforts.
There is no scripture to prove that we are called as the people of God to rescue world governments. We are not commanded to vote anywhere, not even in Romans 13 where Paul specifically gives detailed instructions regarding dealing with the higher powers. He was writing to Christians in Rome and it is highly likely that some of them had the "right to vote" as Roman citizens, yet he nowhere admonishes them that it is their Christian duty to exercise that "right". Apparently Paul did not have a "vision" to see the Roman Empire "rescued for Christ." That was a ploy that came later with the development of the Roman Catholic church. Please stop and think about that.
Paul's vision was for Jesus Christ. He said, For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. Philippians 1:21 And again, Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. Philippians 3:13- 14
In the same passage he said, ...4 Though I might also have confidence in the flesh. If any other man thinketh that he hath whereof he might trust in the flesh, I more: 5 Circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, an Hebrew of the Hebrews; as touching the law, a Pharisee; 6 Concerning zeal, persecuting the church; touching the righteousness which is in the law, blameless. 7 But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ. 8 Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ, (Philippians 3)
For a Jew, nationalism is of extreme importance. It is key to their very existence and personal identity. To be able to prove one is the seed of Abraham is great, to be able to prove what tribe one is from is highly enviable. Yet Paul says he counted all this loss for Christ, even dung - that is manure! Friend, that is strong, strong language for a Jew! I doubt that any non-Jews can even truly comprehend that without a lot of study into Jewish history. Yet, if Paul counted all this as dung that he might win Christ, what should believers today be thinking regarding nationalism and patriotism?
Now, if a Christian today feels they should vote in national elections for one reason or another, they are certainly free to do so. There is no command in the New Testament that we should not vote.
We each answer to the Lord, and we should not be judging one another for not doing exactly like we do. But, Christian zeal should not be measured by political, national or tribal zeal. If a Christian does not participate in national voting or in tribal councils or whatever the situation may be, they should not be judged. And those who do feel they must participate in these things ought not to be judged either, provided their first zeal and interest is always the one foundation, Jesus Christ.
Daniel and Nehemiah both worked for the governments in which they were held in captivity. Both of these governments and cultures were wicked. Yet God blessed them and prospered them on behalf of His own people. The important factor was that their faithfulness to God was far above their faithfulness to the king or the government.
A Better Country
As the people of God, as His children and ambassadors in this wicked world, we are not citizens of any country or tribe. We are the children of the Highest. Our country and nation is a city - the city of God.
First of all, this is referring to the fathers of the nation of Israel. Abraham was promised a land. And yet, the scripture tells us that he considered himself a stranger and pilgrim here, not because he was waiting for his earthly promised land, but because he sought a better country, an heavenly country!
Next notice that God is not ashamed to be called their God because they do desire a better country - a heavenly one! If I may be so bold, what do you suppose God thinks of His children who are looking for a better country here on this earth?
Christian friend, is God ashamed of you? He will not disown you, but if your patriotic or nationalistic zeal overshadows your zeal for heaven, He is not pleased, at the very least. If you are looking to "restore" or "rescue" some nation on this earth for God you are not doing His will. He wants you to consider yourself a stranger and pilgrim on this earth.
With a city this great as our home, why would you want to waste your life "rescuing" some washed up country on this earth? Why not spend your life trying to get more people to go with you to that better country!?
Jerusalem is a city of great importance to the Jewish people. Since the times of David their heritage has been tied up with that geographical place, and possibly even before that. To them Jerusalem has been a city much desired. Nehemiah was grief stricken when he heard what a terrible condition it was in, Neh. 1. Many Jews looked forward to the return of the captivity to Jerusalem as God had promised them. After the second great captivity they looked for that again, and they were no doubt ecstatic when it was retaken in recent years.
But look at what God says through the author of Hebrews to the Hebrew Christians. ...Let us go forth therefore unto him without the camp... Jesus Christ was crucified outside the city of Jerusalem. We are told, along with the Hebrew Christians, that we should go forth to HIM - "without the camp", meaning outside the camp.
For the Jew this is to leave the Jewish religion and heritage. It is to count nationalism as loss, even dung. For the Gentile Christian it is to leave behind patriotism and nationalism and follow Christ alone. Why?
For here have we no continuing city, but we seek one to come.
background & graphics by mary vannattan