I deeply resonated with this quote from Ray Ortlund:
“I love my country. But God has not called me to save my country. God has called me to follow Jesus, no matter what the cost. And I believe that’s the best I can offer my country too.”
And then I read this quote from Trevin Wax:
“The church is God’s shining city on a hill, not the United States. The church will be around long after today’s empires and political parties fade away. So, if you want to put down roots somewhere, put them in the soil of the church. After all, the gates of hell are shaking not because of an election but because of Easter.”
I’m reminded today that a commitment to Christ and His Church is more meaningful, important, necessary, and impactful than a commitment to a nation or a political party. If we seek first the Kingdom of God and all of its glorious realities, then America will benefit along the way. But by pursuing first the greatness of America, we’re stopping short of what we are called to do; we’re only half-way participating in God’s mission. A Christianity that is too preoccupied with American exceptionalism is in danger of losing the greater vision that America needs in order to flourish. It produces a faith that rises and falls with the number of “R’s” in Washington; that waxes and wanes based on how closely legislation aligns with our values; that is too eager to forsake eternal moral values if it means a Republican gets four years in office. What kind of witness is this to a country that so desperately needs the Gospel? Why would anybody want to give their life to a hope that is invigorated by the election of Trump but demolished by the election of Obama, as if our eternal fate hangs in the balance every four years? Such a fickle optimism is not appealing to anyone. But putting the Kingdom of God before the Kingdom of America gives us a mission that includes furthering the prosperity of America, but isn’t derailed by our failure to do so.
Charles Taylor says, “there is a notion of our good which goes beyond human flourishing, which we may gain even while failing utterly on the scales of human flourishing, even through failing (like dying young on a cross) …[Christianity] redefines our ends so as to take us beyond flourishing.”
What solid, lasting, steadfast, robust hope this is! If we want to seek what is best for our country, then we must cultivate a vision that goes beyond this country. There are greater values than life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. There is a greater Guide than the Constitution. There is a greater goal than human flourishing. And all of these are found in the Kingdom of God, which, if we pursue first, will result in all the rest. This is true patriotism. In his book, Onward, Russell Moore says, “we are Americans best if we are not Americans first.” I long for the day when American evangelicalism becomes disillusioned by its obsession with weak patriotism and wakes up to a more enchanting, transcendent purpose than American exceptionalism. There is a greater fight for us to wage than the one we are currently championing.