Are You a Christian or an American?

Are You a Christian or an American?

I’ve been thinking about the horrific tragedy in France all weekend and my mind is filled with tons of thoughts. Conflicting thoughts. The conflict is because I’m a citizen of two places – Jesus’s kingdom and America.

I’ve traveled to over seventy-five countries. I speak three languages. I’ve spent a good portion of my life living overseas. People often expect me to be down on America. But truth is, the more I travel the more I realize what a truly exceptional country the U.S.A. is. I love this country and am passionate about defending the things that have made it great. So much so, that sometimes I forget I’m a citizen of an even bigger kingdom that requires I live by a code that is often uncomfortable for me.

It creates a constant conflict in my mind.

I hesitate to share the thoughts I’ve been thinking this weekend because I know how nasty self-righteous people (like me) can get. But I figure I can’t be the only Christian who struggles with these thoughts. And we should struggle with these thoughts. Here are a few of them:

Europe has been letting anyone and everyone in for years. If this is what happens, we need to keep these people out of our country. 

But then I look down at my daughter. I think about that photo of the young boy that washed up dead on the beach, his parents fleeing from the violence. I cry every time I see it. That could have been my daughter if we lived in Syria. I’m not the type to sit around and take it. I would have packed up my family and left too.

Thanks to undeserved grace, I was born in a country that has been, up to this point, a relatively safe place. I want to protect that. I’d rather keep people out than run the risk that a few bad ones could sneak in and disturb my safety. I want to protect my little safe shell.

But I remember God hasn’t promised us a safe and easy life. Jesus said things like, In this world you will have tribulation. But take heart! I have overcome the world. (John 16:33) To be honest, I haven’t faced a lot of real, life-threatening tribulation. So I’ve been lulled into a false sense of security because I have it so easy. I want to protect that safety and security for my little daughter and her future, but Jesus only promised that safety on the other side of the space-time continuum. For now, we are living in a dangerous world. Maybe I need to be more open to some tribulation. My citizenship is in conflict.

We should bomb the heck out of those evil ISIS soldiers!

Again I think about my daughter. Every one of those ISIS fighters is someone’s son. They were born tiny and helpless. Somewhere along the way they were hurt and became angry. They are taking that anger out using a belief-system that they truly believe justifies their anger. Those men are in prison to their own sin and hurt. Jesus loves them and wants to set them free from the lies they are living under.

Jesus, who happens to rule the other kingdom I’m part of, says crazy things that make me uncomfortable – things like, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you… (Matt. 5:44). I don’t like that. I’d rather just have someone bomb them. Then they can’t threaten my safety. Again, my citizenship is in conflict.

There are dozens more conflicting thoughts in my head. But as I look at each of them closely, they all have one thing in common: Fear.

I’m afraid. I want security. I don’t want to lose what I have in one of the places where I’m a citizen. For now, my heavenly citizenship doesn’t promise the kind of safety I want. But my American citizenship does. So too often I lean into that citizenship and forget the other Kingdom.

If you are still reading it’s probably because you can relate. Or you might just be getting angry and want to fire back a nasty response. You may want to accuse me of being a bleeding-heart liberal or something. (I’m not, but you can think what you want.) Or you may want to bring in verses like Romans 13:4, Isaiah 1:17, and Micah 6:8. That’s fine. I love those verses and I probably agree with you. Especially when it comes to our responsibility to stand up to evil when we have the power to do so. (If you do want to argue Bible just make sure you bring your A-game. I’m a pastor’s/missionary’s kid. Wink.)

My point isn’t to argue. It’s just to say that it’s all really complicated. (Way too complicated for a 1000 word blog.) And if you call yourself a Christian and don’t struggle with some of these questions then you are either way further down the road than me, or there’s a good chance you don’t understand a few things about your faith.

Or you might just be afraid. Which I can completely relate to. But I’m convinced the only way to truly conquer fear is to embrace your citizenship in Jesus’s kingdom. He promises true peace. Jesus promises true safety.

Let’s not forget that we are called to live fearlessly because our true citizenship is somewhere else.

For our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. Phil. 3:20