As we approach July 4, and as many churches around the country host “Celebrate America” services this Sunday… I offer this little reflection. Hope it’s meaningful. Feel free to use it and share it. – Shane
Mother Teresa once said, sometimes our biggest problem is the circle we’ve drawn around our family is too small. That’s why, you know, everybody called her mother because she was, she had a big family with a lot of kids. She had found kids that were abandoned on the streets or in train stations, and you know everybody started calling her mother, and you looked around and they were just, it was a huge family.
And when I look at Jesus, He’s constantly expanding the love we have for our own family. I mean, at one point, He even says to be a disciple means gotta leave your own family, if you want to follow me. There’s a point where Jesus’ mother and brothers, his biological family, come to Him and someone says, hey, your family’s here. And He says, who’s my family? Who are my mother and my brothers? But all of you that are about the kingdom of God.
So, He’s broadening the confines that we put on our love, the limits we put on our love. Not only Jesus was dissing His own family. I mean, when He’s dying on the cross, He looks at His mother and He says, John, she’s your mama now. Take care of her. So it’s not a shrinking of love but an expanding of that love and so often we stop short of how big God’s love is. We say God so loved America, but the truth is God so loves the world.
So now, to be a follower of Jesus, to be born again means we have a new sense of belonging. Our identity in Christ supersedes our national identity. Now, you ready for this? Now, if someone is hurting on the other side of the wall, on the other side of our southern border. If someone’s hurting there, it’s as tragic as if it were my own mama, if it were my own child or grandfather or sister or brother, they’re a child of God made in the image of God just as much as I am. And so that’s why nationalism is so dangerous because it puts a limit on how much we love when we, you know, to say America first is dangerous because God so loves the world. America first is a theological heresy. It’s not that our love for our own people is a bad thing. It’s a good thing, but our love goes beyond borders and no wall can hold it back. We have an identity that that runs beyond our DNA and our nationality.
So, this week, you know, is flag week, and we’ve got the fourth of July coming up. There’s all kinds of nationalism that’s trying to kinda distort Christianity under this guise of Christian nationalism. But I want to say, you know, it’s hard for me to imagine Jesus wearing God bless Rome’s shirt. The state killed him. Like, much less a God bless America’s shirt, I want to invite us to say, let’s imagine what it means to be born again and to love beyond our borders.
Now, my friend Tony Campolo, he says sometimes that America may be the best Babylon in the world. We may live in the best Babylon in the world, but it’s still Babylon, and we’re called to come out of her. We’re called to live as strangers in this land with a sense of fidelity to Jesus that supersedes our nationality, and that’s why we can say, you know, even the national anthem, this is not a worship song. It’s not a song of the church, and America has its own sort of civic religion where there’s symbols of stars and the stripes, and the eagle, and all of these things that represent the iconography, the sacred symbols of America. America’s got its own saints, but to be a Christian is to say, we got a different story. It’s different from the story of our nation or any nation. It’s a story of God that is forming a new nation, a holy nation, a people that are transcending the nationalities and saying, we are the people of God, and we are in every country, and we are following Jesus together, so I want to invite you this season to expand the circle we put around our family, to say we’re going to come out of Babylon.
We’re going to wave the banner of love above any flag and we are gonna reject this Christian nationalism that is competing for our allegiance and distorting the Gospel, to lift up and center America rather than Jesus, as God’s Messianic hope for the world, but my friends, America is not the center of the Gospel.
And our Gospel does not say for God so loved America, but God so loved the world.