North Carolina’s Elizabeth Baptist Church caused a controversy earlier this month when on its grounds, it decided to fly the Christian flag over the American flag. Some were outraged by the news and saw it as a slap in the face to America where we enjoy our freedoms. Whatever your opinion of the church’s decision, the controversy strikes at the subject of priorities. Why should anyone, a church or any person, visibly show allegiance to God over our home country of the United States, where we enjoy the freedoms to worship our God? There are three sound reasons for doing so.
First, it’s a matter of superiority. Everything, including the United States of America, is to be secondary compared to God because He is the “Sovereign Lord, who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and everything in them” (Acts 4:24, English Standard Version). Likewise God the Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, is “the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power” (Hebrews 1:3a, English Standard Version). Obviously, since God is sovereign over His entire creation and Jesus upholds “the universe,” then God is above the United States, every other nation, and everything else, for that matter. As a result, our country is, like it or not, “one nation, under God” and all people, including Americans, should recognize this and live their lives as such because the Bible tells us that this truth is plain to everyone. The apostle Paul tells us “what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse” (Romans 1:19-20, ESV).
Next, it’s a matter of Scripture. Jesus said, “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and give to God what is God’s. What are we to give to “Caesar” and what are we to give to God? It’s obvious from the context (Matthew 22:17-21) that our government is to get our tax money. The Bible also tells us to “be subject to the governing authorities. For there is not authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God” (Romans 13:1, ESV). While we are to give to the government our tax money and our submission to its laws (when they do not clearly contradict the law of God), the reason we give these to the government is because the sovereign God has placed us in our native country and has placed the U.S. government over us. While one way we show our devotion to God is by obeying the government He has placed over us, we are to ultimately give to Him our lives and our total devotion. As much as we may love our country, we are to “love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind” (Matthew 22:37, ESV), and we are also to have no gods before Him (Exodus 20:3). This means we are not to bow down and adore anything or anyone, including our native country, and if we do, we break the command of God. When tempted to love our country over our God, we must echo the words and devotion of the apostles, Peter and John, when they declared, “We must obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29, ESV).
Finally, it’s a matter of salvation. For those of us who have put their trust in the Lord Jesus and His sacrificial death on the cross, we have been bought by the Lord. We no longer belong to ourselves or to the world or even to this country. We belong to Jesus Christ. Of believers, the Bible says, “…you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ” (1 Peter 1:18-19a). Jesus Christ shed His precious blood on the cross so as to purchase guilty sinners like you and me for Himself. The apostle Paul wrote, “My brothers, you also have died to the law through the body of Christ, so that you may belong to another, to him who has been raised from the dead, in order that we may bear fruit for God” (Romans 7:4, ESV). Jesus died to save guilty sinners, so that we may not only belong to Him, but may bear fruit for God. We are not to bear fruit for our government, or for our families, or our communities, or even ourselves. We are to bear fruit for Him who loved us and gave His life for us so that we might have be saved from a hopeless existence apart from God, and to a promise-filled abundant and eternal life with God and for God. The apostle Peter said of believers, “But you are a chose race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession” (1 Peter 2:9, ESV). It is to this “holy nation” that Christians truly belong.