Yesterday in my sermon, I mentioned the word Patriotism, and asked the question about who in the congregation thought of themselves as patriots. It is a loaded word these days, I know. It got their attention at the beginning of the sermon anyway.
But today I wanted to take the time to write a little more about that word, and then give a little bit more of the Christian perspective on who and what we are to place our trust in.
Do you consider yourself a patriot? What do we even mean by that word? Webster defines it as :
one who loves and supports his or her country.
I think that the majority of people living in these United States, by THAT definition, would consider ourselves patriots, perhaps even taking into consideration what side of the political spectrum we would place ourselves on.
A look back at the Webster’s Dictionary from 1828 gives a bit of a different perspective on what a patriot is….
a person who loves his country, and zealously supports and defends it and its interests.
Now THAT definition is a lot less general than the more modern version. It seems more focused and specific. To me, it speaks more to the purpose of patriotism. It is my belief that as the definition has changed, and been watered down, so then has people’s understanding of what true patriotism is. I think with the 1828 definition, we would find far fewer people today who would identify themselves as patriots. It has become quite evident that many do not love their country at all, and do not wish to support it, defend it, or protect its interests. It would seem that many today would rather unravel everything and start over.
I am certainly not one to toss my opinions into every instance of social media amateur politicking, in fact, I rather like to avoid all such nonsense. Most of it is not thoughtful or helpful in any way. Though I pay proper attention to the posts that are, regardless of which side of the aisle they might be coming from.
To be sure, if someone were to directly ask me, say over a fine Lutheran beverage, what my stance is on this or that issue, and why I think that way, or what leads me to support this or that person, I would be more than happy to have that conversation. But when the screaming in my face begins, or the how dare you think that kind of attitude starts, as far as I am concerned the conversation is over. And it IS over at that point, because the person who behaves in such a way doesn’t REALLY want to hear what I think; or have a proper conversation with respect and attempting to gain insight and understanding with someone they might disagree with.
I’m happy to sit and have a civil, respectful conversation with anyone about any issue. We may not agree on everything. We don’t have to change each other’s minds. That is usually not a life and death matter. I say usually, because some of the issues ARE life and death. As a pastor I am dealing with eternal life and eternal death matters every single day. I see how sin in the lives of ALL people affects not only their own lives, but also those around them, and sometimes even more far reaching. I see how most people do not understand first of all that they are sinful, and how their sinful thoughts, words, and deeds have consequences, and not just for themselves, but for others. I see, every single day, the brokenness in people’s lives, the loss, the hurting, the pain, the suffering that people go through because there is sin in this world and in their lives, and how the consequences negatively and adversely affect many, in sort of a concentric circle outward manner. And this brokenness affects me every day as well, both directly and indirectly; internally, and externally; as it does for every person on this earth.
Usually, when adversity strikes in this nation, on a national scale, we see people coming together. People of all races, religions, creeds, etc. People who have never met. People who might be as far apart on the political spectrum as you could be. But not in this period of time. Not in this current adversity, or series of adversities. I do not see people coming together. There is so much darkness in our land, fueled by so much hatred that it’s getting hard to see–and I am not referring to the smoke caused by the fires out in the Western U.S.
Which brings me to the point of all this. Patriotism is fine, though I think we shall be finding ourselves devoid of it if we are not careful, no matter WHAT definition is used. But I know of something FAR, FAR better. Because, you see, I belong to a nation that is FAR, FAR better, even than these UNITED STATES, which I hold so dear. I belong to the Kingdom of God, an eternal kingdom. A kingdom with love, and forgiveness, and mercy, and hope. A kingdom that looks like it is topsy turvy to the world, but that is simply the way that God does things. He likes to flip them over. His ways are not our ways. His time is not our time (His is eternal-and we have trouble thinking in that way). And you can be part of His Kingdom as well. This Kingdom in fact is for “all who believe in Christ”. And I WANT you to be part of God’s Kingdom of believers. I WANT you to have that hope, to know God’s love for you in Jesus, to have the assurance, the guarantee of eternal life in Him. After all, I desire to have the same will as my Savior, Jesus. And His will is the Father’s will. And the Father’s will is that “all believe and come to a knowledge of the truth.”
And Jesus IS that truth, dear friends. I would never scream at somebody and tell them that they HAVE TO BELIEVE IN JESUS, OR ELSE. But with gentleness and respect, I will invite you to believe in Him, place your TRUST in Him, and FOLLOW Him.
We place our trust in so many things, and people, that can NEVER give us what we truly need. We turn these things into personal idols without even realizing that we are doing so. When you fear, love, and trust in anything above God, then you have yourself an IDOL, that cannot speak, cannot hear, cannot see, cannot touch, cannot really do anything for you of real value.
We have a hymn in our Synod with these words: “Trust not in rulers, they are but mortal. Earth-born they are and soon decay. Vain are their counsels at life’s last portal, When the dark grave engulfs it’s prey. Since mortals can no help afford, place all your trust in Christ our Lord.” (LSB 797, CPH).
I urge you with the love of Christ, to think about these words. I pray that you would give them much consideration in these difficult times. And instead of throwing blame here and there and everywhere about everything under the sun; I pray that you would humble yourselves, and think not only of your own interests, but also the interests of others. Think about how you can show love to your neighbor, and not hatred. Think about how you can support, and build up, and help those in need.
I pray for peace in your hearts and minds, both during these difficult times, and always. And I exhort you to exercise kindness toward one another. Life is hard enough without all the hatred. And be kind with your words, as the tongue is a dangerous and lethal weapon that kills a person’s spirit.
Thank you for reading!
With love in Christ to all of you!