Happy Birthday USA!
This time of year we hear both preachers and politicians talking about America as a “Christian nation.” They like to say that the United States was, is and always should be a “Christian nation.”
Many churches have held “God and Country” or “I Love America” worship services.
Other churches are uncomfortable with such services, wondering “Who or what are these services worshipping? The United States or Jesus?”
Do these services fit the Constitution with its separation of church and state?
Do these services fit the Bible with its distinction between the Kingdom of God and the kingdoms of the planet?
The debate will continue.
In my teaching last Sunday, I asked this question, “What does it mean to be a Christian nation?” “If a ‘Christian nation’ is what we were, are or should be, what does that look like?”
How would you answer the question?
How about this question?
“What does it mean to be a Christian?” “If a person is a Christian, what does that person look like?”
Is this a fair answer? “That person would look like Christ.”
John writes this,
“whoever says, ‘ I abide in him,’ ought to walk just as he walked” (1 John 2:6 NRSV).
“Whoever claims to live in him must live as Jesus did (1 John 2:6 NIV).
I think most people agree with John. If a person claims to follow Christ then that person needs to live like Christ, to walk in his way.
“Christian” means “little Christ.” People who follow Him look like Him.
So, should nations who follow Him – Christian nations – look like Him? If a Christian person needs to at least want to and try to look like Jesus to be considered a Christian person, then why wouldn’t a Christian nation need to want to and try to look like Jesus to be considered a Christian nation?
What does Jesus look like? What is his way?
“But I say to you, Do not resist an evil doer. But if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also” (Matthew 5:39).
“You have hear that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy,’ But I say to you, Love your enemies…” (Matthew 5:44).
“Give to everyone who begs from you, and do not refuse anyone who wants to borrow from you” (Matthew 5:42).
“So the last will be first, and the first will be last” (Matthew 20:16).
“Then Jesus said to him, ‘Put your sword back into its place; for all who take the sword will perish by the sword’” (Matthew 26:52
“When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, ‘Let anyone among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her’” (John 8:7).
What does that say about capital punishment?
If we were serious about being a Christian nation wouldn’t we use the colors of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control (Galatians 5:22-23)? These are the colors that speak to, give evidence of the life of Christ in us.
If we were serious about being a Christian nation would we elect leaders who were patient, kind, never boastful, never rude, who would never hold a grudge, never be irritable, never insist on their own way (1 Corinthians 13:4-7)? Doesn’t Paul say that love is the “greatest thing?”
Throughout our history, we, as a nation, have believed and behaved in ways that are not Christian – if we define Christian as “like Christ.” Frederick Douglass, the abolitionist said,
“I can see no reason, but the most deceitful one,
for calling the religion of this land Christianity.”
What are we doing as individuals, what are we doing as a nation, that Christ would not be doing?
I’m not certain what people mean when they say they want the United States to be a Christian nation.
But part of me thinks that they don’t mean to “be like Jesus.”