Patriots or Prophets?
I consider myself to be a faithful citizen of the United States. I pay my taxes (though I must confess not always cheerfully), I vote in all national, state and local elections, and I stand for the National Anthem. Though I have never served in the armed forces (except for my three-year stint in Junior ROTC), my family has an extensive military heritage. My grandfather was a career soldier who served in the final days of the horse Calvary. My father served in World War II, trained as a B-17 ball turret gunner. My brother is a retired career naval enlisted man. As a child, I spent more time at the American Legion hall than I did at church. My favorite movie of all-time is “Patton.” In other words, I am what many would call a “patriotic American.”
Nevertheless, my supreme allegiance is not to the USA, or to any other earthly nation. I am first and for mostly, a citizen of the Kingdom of God. My heavenly citizenship (Phil. 3:20) may at times put me in conflict with my nation of earthly citizenship. I, as a disciple of Christ, cannot accept the viewpoint expressed by the phrase, “My country right or wrong, my country.” Meaning that loyalty to my country supersedes my personal ethical responsibility. This is a wrong concept of loyalty. If my nation advocates policies that are in conflict with God’s revealed truth; I must oppose the policies of my nation. In doing so, I am being faithful to my nation and to the Kingdom of God. (Please take notice of my distinction between being faithful and being loyal.)
When we examine the role of the prophet, particularly as it was revealed under the Old Testament economy, we see that they were guardians of Biblical law and order in their society. In this task they often opposed civil rulers. Their allegiance was not to their nation’s leaders, but to Jehovah God. For this reason, the prophets were often persecuted. In modern language, the charges against them would be that they were treasonous, seditious, or at the least unpatriotic. Moses offended the democratic ideal, “the will of the people” (Exodus 14:10-12). Elijah was called a “troubler of Israel” because he spoke against the king (I Kings 18:17), and Ahab threw Micaiah into prison for prophesying against his godless military ventures (I Kings 22:13-28). Jeremiah, because he contradicted the political leaders, was plotted against, beaten, and cast into prison (Jer. 37:4-21). All of these men of God, Jesus said, were “persecuted for righteousness” – that is, for the forthright demand that the nation return to standard of God’s word (Matt. 5:10-12). They were “unpatriotic” only in the sense that they refused to put the state ahead of God.
The Christians of the first and second centuries were not persecuted by the Roman Empire because of their “religious” convictions. They were persecuted for their “political” convictions. They refused to acknowledge Caesar as “Lord,” and give to him their supreme allegiance. Instead they declared that “Jesus is Lord,” and thus were viewed as seditious. The fact is that Jesus is King of Kings and Lord of Lords, His Kingdom will not be subservient to any earthly nation. We, as Christians, must never allow ourselves to become the “lapdogs” of any nation or political party. We must stand apart from the world system, in order to be God’s mouthpiece, to speak into the world system. We are to be “in the world but not of it” (John 17:14-19).
If God’s people are going to be faithful to the earthly nation in which they are citizens, they must cry out against evil. They must respond like the prophets, who called the leaders and the people back to the truth of God. They warned of impending judgment upon the nation for its failure to heed the Word of God. They were serving their nation by being God’s prophetic voice.
Who are the true patriots? The true patriots are those who are faithful to be “prophets” to their nation.