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Religious Reflections

One nation under God

by Rev. Ron Jetter

Be prepared at all times to give account to anyone who asks about the hope that is within you. -- I Peter 3:15

I read an article some years ago titled "God is not an American." The first line of the article was "God is not a Republican." It went on to list the various issues supported by conservatives in America that don't seem to jive with the Bible. Then the next paragraph started with "Neither is God a Democrat." Naturally, it listed a variety of positions held by liberals that likewise seem at odds with our Biblical faith.

The point of the article was that it is all too easy for us to confuse our priorities, thinking that God is as small in His perspective as we are. As humans, each of us lives individual lives in our own little worlds, limited by our experiences and the values of those who help shape our beliefs. Sin tells us, "You have a right to expect everyone to think and believe like you do." Sin prompts us to think we have "facts," not "opinions." Sin is the ability to think that what I have to say is important and what you have to say is irrelevant.

When Christians allow political positions to become more important than the Gospel of Jesus Christ, we are in effect saying we believe in One God Under Nation. We make God our national deity, not unlike what the Israelites did 3,000 years ago. Then the words of the prophet Isaiah rang out against the nation, reminding Israel that Abraham's children were to become a blessing for all the nations of the earth, and that the foreigner in their land was also a child of God.

God is not Republican or Democrat. Christians may choose to be either or neither, but it is incumbent upon us that we realize that political parties do not exist to do God's will. They exist to order society. They exist for this world. When the Day of the Lord arrives, as it surely will, there will be no room in God's Kingdom for political parties. Nor will there be nations, for God is Lord over all nations. God's children are not identified in heaven by their earthly nationality, but by their citizenship in the Eternal Realm of God.

That is the big picture. We are all children of the same heavenly Father. The Greek Christians had a word for it: oikumene. I like to translate it using the title of a well-known hymn: In Christ there is no East or West, in Him nor South or North; Just one great fellowship in Christ throughout the whole wide earth.

Am I suggesting that we celebrate the 4th of July by forgetting that we are proud Americans? Or proud Republican Americans or proud Democrat Americans? No, I am suggesting we keep it in perspective, that we keep the nation under God and God over the nation.

Israel learned from its prophetic voices. A practice developed within the Jewish faith of wearing a kippa or cap (sometimes called a yarmulke) to remind them that they were "bar mizvah," or under the gentle reign of God. They exist as underlings and wear the kippa so that they don't forget. Under God. Under. Not equal, not above, not without but under. The ceremony named after the reality is a moving one, and a humbling one.

Humility is a good thing. In fact it is one of the spiritual fruits that Paul asks us to pray for and to strive for and to nurture in our lives. Jesus went so far as to wash his disciples' feet to show what humility looked like. Humility is the ability to put ourselves in our place, to admit our failings and frailty, to never think that we have the whole answer or the big picture or all the facts. We make decisions, we choose candidates, we take positions on issues with the knowledge that we could be wrong.

I believe were we as Christians to demonstrate humility to our nation, we would have a huge impact on the unchurched. They would see us as a servant people, as people who struggle but who nonetheless live in the confidence of God's ongoing love and Christ's forgiveness, compliments of the cross.

There is one Lord, one faith, one baptism for the forgiveness of sins, one royal priesthood, one family of God's children and we go by many names and speak many languages.

There is one earth, created along with the heavens by the one God, and though there are many nations on that earth, we are all of one place in this vast universe.

There is one America, founded 228 years ago upon ideals that we believe are good and right and true, and though we have our differences, Republicans are Americans first, and Democrats are Americans first.

There is one Church, created by the Holy Spirit sent forth by the risen Lord Jesus, and though we have many denominations, Baptists are Christians first, and Lutherans are Christians first and Catholics are Christians first, and AofG and SDA and Presbyterians and 4Square and CofG and UCC and DOC and all the rest are Christians first.

Let's celebrate the spirit of America in reverence and humility: one nation under God. May God continue to bless our nation and may we be His instruments as we exercise our citizenship in this great land.

- Rev. Ron Jetter is the pastor at Our Saviour's Lutheran Church of Sunnyside

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