We live in insane times. I watch what’s happening in our nation and I wonder about this next election’s implications for my generation — and, even more so, for the generations to come. But whatever unfolds in November, the truth remains: our country is changing. So what should be our mindset as Christians in the U.S.?
In his first epistle, Peter writes to elect exiles, dispersed across a very anti-Christian empire. He reminds them of our living hope in Jesus Christ. He points beyond their circumstances to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for [us], who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time (1 Pet. 1:1, 3-5, ESV).
Democracy is worth fighting for, but we don’t find our living hope in it. We find it in the liberating work of Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for our spiritual freedom. Through Christ, we have an eternal weight of glory ahead — a future of peace, joy, and wholeness — that no one can take from us. And this living hope shapes our identity as exiles, sent . . . into the world, but not of it (2 Cor. 4:16-18, Jn. 17:14-19, ESV).
We should not be Christian Americans. We should be Christians — Christ-followers — who live in America.
We should not be Christian Americans. We should be Christians — Christ-followers — who live in America. Why? Because our first and foremost identity is not found in our national citizenship. It’s found in our eternal citizenship.
Does this mean that we throw patriotism out the window and just wait for heaven, while turning a blind eye to our culture’s crises? Not at all. On the contrary, embracing our identity as spiritual exiles means we’re not living for less. We’re living for more — and, paradoxically, this leads to the most heroic form of patriotism.
In Orthodoxy, G.K. Chesterton writes: Love is not blind; that is the last thing that it is. Love is bound; and the more it is bound the less it is blind. Chesterton further writes: Before any cosmic act of reform we must have a cosmic oath of allegiance.
We belong to something so much bigger than the American Dream, and therefore we have nothing to lose and everything to give.
We belong to something so much bigger than the American Dream, and therefore we have nothing to lose and everything to give. The key is seeing ourselves in light of our living hope. Because when we embrace our identity as spiritual exiles, i.e. citizens of Heaven, we have nothing to ultimately fear. With unconditional love, we can engage in our culture’s messy situations because our ultimate allegiance is to Christ. We can stand, with risk-taking courage, for what is good and true. Because the story doesn’t end here.
We see this in Scripture when three exiles — Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego — respectfully refuse to bow down and worship Nebuchadnezzar’s image. How could they honor the king and yet defy his order — at the potential cost of their lives?
This was their reason: . . . O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter. If this be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king (Dan. 3:16-17, ESV).
We can stand, with risk-taking courage, for what is good and true. Because the story doesn’t end here.
These exiles belonged to Someone so much greater than the Babylonian king, and whether they received His deliverance in life or in death, they had an unshakeable, living hope.
It may take the form of brave-hearted submission or God-honoring defiance, but we have the same reason for active citizenship in America. We have a living hope. So whatever happens, let’s not lose heart. Let’s be less in love with our identity as Americans and more in love with our identity as children of God (1 Jn. 3:1, ESV). Because with eyes fixed on eternity, we can run this race called life, and, by God’s grace, we can run it well.
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. . . preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to us at the revelation of Jesus Christ.
1 Peter 1:13, ESV
Works Cited: G.K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy, (Lexington: SnowBall Publishing, 2015), 43.