The verse jumped off the page when I read it last week. I’ve thought about it so many times since that I felt like the Lord wanted me to write this blog on the subject.
The American flag has hung in my driveway for the past week. I also lined my drive with smaller versions of the Stars and Stripes. I love this country, and this year, especially, I thought we needed to celebrate.
Interestingly, I spent the week writing a Bible study from 1 and 2 Peter. I think the timing of Independence Day with my work is what caused me to pause and rethink a familiar verse.
The book of 1 Peter was written to Christians who had been “scattered” to the area we know as modern-day Turkey. Many had been driven from their homes in Israel by Jewish leaders who considered their teaching heresy.
These people put their faith ahead of everything else and left their homes behind. They settled in a part of the world that had a pagan culture and no interest in changing their way of life.
Sound familiar? American History 101?
Peter taught those first-century Christian pilgrims to see themselves as a holy people, saying, “You are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light” (1 Peter 2:9).
What if we had not received mercy?
Peter reminded them that there was a time when they had not been holy, “had not received mercy” (1 Peter 2:10).
Do you ever stop to wonder what your life would have looked like if you had not placed your faith in Christ?
Sometimes, I get angry at what I see people doing in the streets, saying on television, or even getting arrested for on the evening news. Rarely do I think, “That could have been me.”
But, who would I have been if I had not received God’s mercy?
Christians are foreigners, exiles
It was the week of July 4 when I studied the second chapter of 1 Peter. Maybe that is why the words jumped off the page. Peter wrote, “Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles” (1 Peter 2:11). The NIV uses the words foreigners and exiles.
The words jumped off the page because that is how I’ve felt watching the news lately: scenes of destructive violence that seemed foreign to me. The news, on any station, sounds more like propaganda than objective facts. It seemed “un-American” and ungodly.
Then I studied the verse and realized a biblical truth: there isn’t a country on earth I love more than America, but America is not where I am to place my highest loyalty.
I’m a foreigner and an exile until I am home in heaven.
That is why the Apostle Paul wrote, “But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ” (Philippians 3:20).
An American idol
It’s interesting that there is a television show called American Idol. We do love our celebrities!
I think we are supposed to love our country, but, for many, America is an idol.
I had a woman get very angry at me one year for those words. She spent most of her free time volunteering for organizations that honored veterans and political organizations that promoted candidates. Nothing but complete American allegiance was considered Christian to her.
The point I was trying to make, that she sadly actually made for me, was this: biblically, if we love America more than we love Christ, America is an idol in our lives.
Our citizenship is in heaven
I love my country and don’t want to live anywhere else.
We are blessed to have freedom of speech, freedom of religion, and freedom to live as we choose. But, the blessings depend on people using those freedoms with morality.
Some Americans thought they were free to steal televisions and take away other people’s freedoms. Some Americans thought they were free to tear down what others had been free to build. All of us are free to choose, both right and wrong.
There has never been a time in our nation’s history when America was “one nation under God.” There have been times we got closer to that goal, but it has always been a goal more than a reality. Why is that?
We can love our country, and we should. But there is a verse from 1 Peter 2 we need to remember. Christians are foreigners and exiles anywhere they live on this planet. When we choose to place our eternal future above our earthly freedoms, we will never truly be citizens here.
We have pledged our allegiance to Jesus.
How then should we live?
Peter answered that question in his letter as well.
He wrote, “Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God. Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor” (1 Peter 2:16–17).
The best citizens of heaven will be the best citizens of any country on earth. America shouldn’t be our idol because it shouldn’t be our highest priority. We gave Jesus that place of honor the day we asked him to be our Lord.
I think Christians should serve our country because they want to serve Jesus. Pray for God to call out those who will lead like Jesus, for his eternal purposes.
Finally, understand that the reason Christians feel like foreigners in our culture is that we are foreigners.
When you watch the evening news, it is okay to realize “this is not my home.” We won’t belong anywhere completely until we are living in heaven. That is where we will spend every moment free to be godly. That is where we will spend every moment unable to be anything less.
Until then, we know how to live.
The important question is, will we use our free wills to do so?