I have a confession to make… I, as a follower of Jesus and a pastor, have love-hate relationship with the National Day of Prayer… I know that believers and pastors all over this country are making a big deal about this day… especially has it happened to land a few weeks after the Boston bombings and a day after the news broke that the Pentagon is thinking about stopping soldiers from sharing their religious beliefs.
Part of me knows that anytime folks gather together in prayer it is a good thing… I also know that followers of Jesus are to love and bless everyone around them: their family, friends, enemies, leaders, co-workers, and anyone in-between.
Yet on the other side I really, really, really dislike the way in patriotism for one’s country has embedded itself into Christianity. Sadly enough in some places patriotism and Christianity merged together so much that to talk bad about one’s country is an insult against God and vis a versa. Oh, by the way the USA is not the only place where this has happened. History tells us of many, many countries where this mis-view of the following Jesus has gained control.
The simple fact remains that there has never been a “Christian nation” on planet earth.
Yes, there have been nations who have based some of their laws or customs on principles found in the Bible – but that does not make them a “Christian nation.”
To be a “Christian” is to give yourself 100% to Jesus the Christ. It is follow His example in all things. It is to love and forgive your enemies – to turn the other check; to heal the sick; preach that the Kingdom of God is at hand; it is to die so that others may live. And, well, quite frankly, there has never been a nation or a government that has embodied the character and actions of Jesus.
Pastor, theologian and author Gregory Boyd put it this way
“…the governments of this world seek to establish, protect, and advance their ideals and agendas. It‘s in the fallen nature of all those governments to want to ‘win.’ By contrast, the kingdom Jesus established and modeled with his life, death, and resurrection doesn’t seek to ‘win’ by any criteria the world would use. Rather, it seeks to be faithful. It demonstrates the reign of God by manifesting the sacrificial character of God, and in the process, it reveals the most beautiful, dynamic, and transformation power in the universe. It testifies that this power alone – the power to transform people from the inside out by coming under them – holds the hope of the world. Everything the church is about, I argue, hangs on preserving the radical uniqueness of this kingdom in contrast to the kingdom of the world.” –emphasis added; quote from “The Myth of a Christian Nation: How the Quest for Political Power is Destroying the Church”
So what does this mean?
It means that while I will pray for my nation and its leaders, my prayers will not be ones of grandeur or for making the U.S.A. a better nation. My prayers will be for the people who live and breathe on this planet; my prayers will be for the ones Jesus died for:
“Here I am Lord. Mold me, shape me into the image of Your Son, Jesus the King. May I walk in Your footsteps. Help us all who follow You to embody Your character and love. May we be known for our love for each other and our enemies. Draw each person on the planet, all who draws a breathe regardless of race or gender, deeper and deeper into Your arms. Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty, who was, and is and is to come. Come, Holy Spirit, come – sweep through this land. Amen.”