God Bless America


The events of Sept. 11, 2001, affected the American psyche.
There was a sudden upsurge in patriotism, and a willingness to allow God in the
public sphere. When people feel helpless, it is natural for them to seek
supernatural help.

Few of us will quickly forget the images of planes striking
buildings, of the huge fireball, of the dramatic collapse of buildings and the
enormous rubble pile that killed thousands of people from scores of nations.
Those horrors have left an indelible impression on the American and the Free
World psyche.

Though the most visible and greatest tragedy was in New
York, we do not forget the crimes that killed hundreds in Pennsylvania and at
the Pentagon. We do not have a convenient symbol or label for these multiple
acts of terrorism; we are left with the ungainly expression “the events of
Sept. 11.” We are left with a dispersed enemy — criminals scattered in any
number of remote nations.

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And people are left with mixed feelings about some Free
World values, such as respect for individual rights. They’ve been taught to
treat everyone equally, and yet now they find themselves fearing some people
more than others. They want certain people to be given a more thorough security
check than others. Their values are being tested.

Church and state

Another area of mixed feelings is the separation of church
and state. Many Christians mix their religion with their patriotism, and I
suppose that this is to some extent unavoidable. Nations have done that for
millennia. Armies going to war always have religious leaders to assure the
troops that their god(s) are on their side.

But it seems to me that Jesus and Paul don’t give any
support to a blend of faith and politics. The goals of the gospel are quite
different from the goals of a nation. One stresses justice, the other stresses
grace and mercy. One stresses material prosperity, the other focuses on
spiritual reality.

Governments try to make this world better, and indeed it is
their God-given responsibility to do that. But when they succeed, people often
begin to trust in the government instead of in God. In times of prosperity,
people tend to focus on material blessings instead of their spiritual needs.
And sometimes churches get distracted by dreams of national greatness (Nazi
Germany is one example, but we must not forget that religion was also used to
justify slavery, colonial expansion and American massacres of Indian tribes).

Christianity tells us that this world is fallen and sinful,
and it won’t be fixed by better laws, better armies or religious wars. We are
not going to usher in the fullness of the kingdom of God through human effort.
We need the return of Christ, and until then, the Bible tells us, we live as
aliens and strangers on earth (Hebrews 11:13). We are looking for a nation with
foundations laid by God himself (verse 10). Our primarily allegiance, our
primary citizenship, is in heaven (Philippians 3:20).

Nevertheless, we are also citizens of earthly nations, and
we have responsibilities in and for these nations. At a minimum, it means that
we pray for our nation’s leaders so that we might have peace and freedom to
worship (1 Timothy 2:1-2). We pray that God would give these leaders wisdom in
the way they seek justice for criminal acts. This is by no means easy — that is
why we pray for supernatural guidance.

But we need to distinguish between religion and government.
The bullets flying in various wars are not Christian or Kingdom of Christ
bullets — they are bullets and bombs of individual nations, and there will
always be a difference between the kingdom of God and national governments.
Nations have the God-given responsibility to punish evil-doers (Romans 13:4),
but they remain nations as they do it; they do not become the kingdom of God.
When Paul wrote, Rome spoke and acted for Rome, not for God, even though God
often used what Rome did in its own interests for his purposes.

Of course, terrorists often mix religion with military
action. They may portray their conflict as a holy war between their faith and
others, and that is another reason why we need to keep our faith and our
patriotism clearly distinct. America is not representing a religion — it is
fighting for national interests. As Americans, we support those legitimate
national interests. As Christians, we trust in God for mercy, safety and
courage.

As Christians, we want God to bless Muslims, too. Those
people also need the gospel. But bombs and bullets are not the best way to
preach Christ. They might be the best way for America to seek justice, to try
to bring order to a chaotic world, but they are not a means of spreading the
gospel. We have mixed feelings. We pray for justice, and we pray for grace.

There are no simple answers to the problems we face. In this
fallen world, we will always have problems that can’t be solved. There will be
troubles if we act, and troubles if we don’t. One problem will lead to another,
and another, and yet another, until Christ returns.

But let me leave you with some good news: Our hope in is
Christ, and in him we are secure. “We are receiving a kingdom that cannot be
shaken” (Hebrews 12:28). Our future cannot be threatened by bombs, bullets or chemical
weapons. Even if we die, we win.

Christ has shown us how to conquer adversity: through faith
in God. When we trust in him, we win. “Do not be afraid of those who kill the
body but cannot kill the soul” (Matthew 10:28).

Even if in some way-out scenario, religious fanatics take
over our nation, the gospel “is the power of God for the salvation of everyone
who believes” (Romans 1:16). Even if they declare Christianity illegal, we win.
That is because we do not measure success by political power, but by faith.

The gospel gives us the most secure platform possible. Not
even death can separate us from the love of Christ (Romans 8:38-39). The really
good news is that God wants everyone to hear the gospel and to be saved (1
Timothy 2:4) — and it is for that reason that we pray for our national leaders
(verses 1-2). We pray for peace, not merely for our own benefit, but especially
for conditions that help spread the gospel.

Friends, pray for your nation — not because it is a better
nation than others, but because it needs the gospel. All nations are sinful,
and the citizens of all nations need repentance, humility and forgiveness. Pray
that in one way or another, people might see the gospel as what they really
need.

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All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984 by Biblica, Inc.™  Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide. www.zondervan.com

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This article was written by in 2001. Copyright Grace Communion International. All rights reserved.

As Christians, we are free in Christ to support our nation
in all its legitimate endeavors. As Americans, we are free in the Constitution
to worship and believe as we see fit. That is, I think, the greatest blessing
God has given America, and as loyal Americans, I believe it is our worthy duty
to support that freedom.


How Does God Bless America?

Many have sung “God Bless America.” But have they stopped to
consider how God blesses America? What are the truly good things that
God has given America? Does God bless America by giving us more money and
goods, so that we can trust in money and goods? Does he bless us with luxuries
that distract us from thinking about the purpose of life?

In the old covenant, God promised to give Israel national
blessings for obedience, and national curses for disobedience. Israel broke her
covenant with God, and the land was taken over by outsiders. But in the new
covenant, God takes away our sins and gives us his righteousness through faith
in Immanuel, God with us — Jesus Christ, the perfect human. Our inheritance is
not land and it is not a great nation — it is eternal life.

Perhaps what Americans need is the courage, integrity and
unity to defend its Constitution, which guarantees our freedom to worship and
believe as we see fit. And perhaps what we need is faith — faith that God loves
us even when we hurt, even when death is at the door. And maybe what America
needs is the gospel — good news that in the midst of human sin and pain, God
holds out the gift of pardon and new life in Jesus Christ.

Indeed, God bless America!

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