Scripture – Jeremiah 29:4-14
These words of Jeremiah were offered to a people living in exile. He reminds them of God’s faithfulness and offers them a future hope and return to their homeland. But for now they are to build houses to live in, plant gardens for their support and livelihood, give their children in marriage, and multiply in the land where God has placed them.
We’re not exiles! So how does this text speak to us as citizens of the United States as we celebrate Independence Day? Is there a word for us as Christians in America today?
But if you think about it, in some ways our forefathers were exiles. Once citizens of Great Britain they fought for their freedom and achieved it. They claimed this land as their own and became its citizens. Many of them were Christians seeking freedom of religious expression. They were God’s people drawn, as they believed, by God’s hand to a new land. Ultimately, they were citizens of God’s kingdom. But they were dispersed to new colonies and new worlds to establish a place to live.
Those of us who worship the triune God have much in common with those early Christian exiles who settled this land. We, too, are citizens of the kingdom of heaven as well as dwellers in this land of freedom. And we are here, we trust, because this is the land in which God placed us. For the time being this is our home until that day when God calls us to our heavenly home.
How then shall we live until that time? The Apostle Paul and Jesus seem to agree on this matter – render unto our government all that it is due. Even when we disagree with its decisions – and as Americans, we correctly believe this to be our right – we should pray for our country, seek its welfare, and live as good neighbors alongside the people God has placed around us.
Sometimes this means we will need to speak out, to protest, to vote, but when you think about it that really isn’t that big of a sacrifice. We, more than any other people, have the right to do so. That’s precisely what the colonists fought the Revolution for. As Christians we should celebrate our freedom more dearly than all other peoples, for we know that until we fully realize our citizenship in the kingdom of heaven, we are placed in a realm where we are free to act in ways that can shape and secure it. While America is not the New Jerusalem – the Kingdom of God, it is the place where we reside and we should live and pray in all humility and thoughtfulness and neighborliness.
God of all peoples and nations, we thank you that you have given us this good land in which to live. It flows with water and overflows with bounty. Because of these riches that come from our soil, these great blessings, we have often reached out to seek the welfare of other nations. But, we confess that we have not done so as often as we could have and sometimes for the wrong reasons. Teach us anew how to be good neighbors to one another within our land and to those beyond our borders. As Christian people, use us to bring about the welfare of those in need in all places. For the wise use of all that you give us, and the unselfish sharing of blessings, we pray. And, we dare to ask again and again, in Jesus’ name, may you, O God, continue to bless America, not for our own pride or privilege, but in order that we might be a blessing to the world. Amen.
Yours in Christ,
Robert H. Lapp