Lee Greenwood’s song, I’m proud to be an American, was originally released in 1984, but again during the Gulf War. My chest goes out when I hear the words: “I’m proud to be an American, where at least I know I’m free, and I won’t forget the men who died, who gave that right to me. And I’d gladly stand up next to you and defend her still today. ‘Cause there ain’t no doubt I love this land! God bless the U.S.A.”
During my years in the Air Force and later as an Army Chaplain I wore my uniform proudly. My eyes get teary listening to our National Anthem and thinking about the flag draped coffins I saw of military men and women who died in Iraq and Afghanistan. During my six combat tours I was a part of over 50 memorial ceremonies honoring the lives of those who had given their all.
Jonah was a prophet of the Old Testament nation of Israel. He prophesied that there would be nationalistic expansion, which happened. Jonah was a patriot and passionately supported his country. God gave an assignment to Jonah to be His voice to the Ninevites, a hated enemy of Israel. Jonah received the assignment from God and instead of going to Nineveh, he ran away in the opposite direction, getting on a boat to go to the furthest known point in the world at that time.
You know the story. Jonah ends up in a big fish, he prays, and God rescues Jonah from the fish. God continued to want to use Jonah as His voice of judgment for the Ninevites. As a result of Jonah’s words, Nineveh repented, and God relented from the judgement.
Instead of marveling in God’s compassion, Jonah was angry and felt that God was very wrong. You see, Jonah had his modifiers in the wrong order. Instead of being a patriotic God follower, Jonah was a God following patriot. He allowed his patriotism to affect how he followed God.
Today it is easy to really dislike (dare I say hate) those who are on the opposite side of the current cultural divide in our nation. Like Jonah, many want nothing to do with our “enemies.” Still God desires all to follow Him, on both sides of the political divide.
As Patriotic Christians our citizenship is in heaven (Philippians 3:20). Like the “commander of the army of the Lord that Joshua confronted with the question, “Are you for us or for our enemies?” we should embrace the same answer, “Neither!” (Joshua 5:13-14). We need to stand firm on our Biblical values, but we are called to love our enemies with the same sacrificial love that Jesus gives to us.
Both sides of the political and cultural divide in our nation need Jesus.
Can we begin to reach out with the love of Jesus with a civility of respect that listens deeply seeking to understand even when we don’t agree?
Perhaps, as Patriotic Christians, the next time someone calls us a “hater” we can respond with, “I hear what you said, and it hurts since I don’t think that I hate. Could we start a conversation over a cup of coffee to listen to each other? I promise that I will listen to you.” Perhaps, nothing will change. But perhaps, one life at a time could change. And perhaps the life that changes will be our own.
Church Ambassador Network of Kansas