In the light of day as the fireworks fade and the reverie of red, white, and blue are tucked back into the drawer and exchanged for workday wear, I am reflecting on all that “independence” and freedom mean. I have traveled the world and I love and appreciate the USA. I am also torn. While the Declaration of Independence severed the tie from tyranny and oppression for some, it tarried and still tarries for others.
The US Constitution declared that inalienable rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness were given to all, regardless of race, creed, and religion, while at the same time declaring that a black man was only 3/5 a person. Though declared free 100 years later, blacks were not constitutionally free until the Civil Rights Movement—200 years after the nation’s first Independence Day.
America is an idea and not a religion. Our parties are political platforms and not discipleship pathways. Too often, we exalt our nation and our politics in ways that confuse our standing before Jesus.
This past week, First Baptist Church Dallas sang a song to “make America Great again,” while waving the American Flag. Prestonwood Baptist Church interviewed Texas Governor Greg Abbott while celebrating our Armed Forces. Both events illustrate the very tension we as Christ Followers (people who model the life of Jesus) face in the politicized religious nationalism of America.
Jesus was able to separate “rendering to Caesar” what was Caesar’s and giving to God what belonged to God. Jesus never flew a Roman flag, or celebrated the Roman armed forces. He didn’t endorse candidates, nor did He sing anthems to “make Rome great again.” He did not defend the country that He lived in; rather, He proclaimed, taught, and manifested the Kingdom He was from.
Manifesting the Kingdom of God is the call of each disciple. If we are a Christian-oriented nation, where is the justice?
In the county I’m writing from, over 3000 orphans need homes. Race deeply divides this country. Manifesting the Kingdom moves beyond mourning the death of Philando Castile. It also means voicing and standing for the New Community, the New Man, the New Race that is testified to in Scripture.
Manifesting the Kingdom means caring deeply about those who are torn in their sexual or gender identity and showing them identity in Jesus, the One who made them—rather than creating laws that marginalize and shame them.
When we confuse Jesus with politics we begin to use the means of this world to manifest the Kingdom.
A disciple of Jesus realizes the only way to manifest the Kingdom is to model the life of Jesus. Using the means of this world rather than the means that Jesus used (prayer, reliance upon the words of the Father, and the power of the Spirit) is not being a disciple of Jesus but rather a steward of this world. These issues are so confused in our culture that good, well-meaning, true believers have blurred and confused what it means to proclaim, teach, and manifest the Kingdom.
Freedom is to walk in the light as He is in the light. The celebration of freedom is to proclaim, teach, and manifest the Kingdom of the One who provides true freedom.