Today it is Memorial Day weekend, 2021. Tomorrow, there will be picnics and parades. The short history of Memorial Day is to honor those that have fallen in battle, and those that served our nation in the military that have now died.
As the political climate shifts back and forth in America, followers of Jesus shift their emotions and feelings about what it means to be an American. In recent years, the term “Christian Nationalism” has become a lightning rod call to alert Americans that are Christians. The warning is that followers of Jesus should not put their hope in the systems of this world, and always maintain our allegiance to our King; King Jesus.
There are some that equate being an American with being a Christian. This is idolatry. The apostle Paul spoke to the core of this, as Jesus did. John the Baptist essentially told the religious community of his day that God was able to raise up sons from rocks! So much for a pedigree. Jesus said that the kingdom was going to be taken away from the (nationalist) Jews and be given to lower class, non-Jewish people. Paul said that a real Jew is one who is a Jew inwardly; in other words, by faith in Jesus Christ.
Being born an American does not make one born again. See John 3.
The other extreme idea is that if one has national pride, or patriotism – that it is a sin. Patriotism does not equal nationalism. Consider Roman soldiers who had a faith encounter: John the Baptist told the soldiers to be content with their wages, and not to extort. Jesus said the Roman centurion, (a high ranking officer), was an example of great faith. Cornelius – another high ranking military officer – was saved, baptized, and filled with the Holy Spirit.
In all of the above encounters, none of the Roman soldiers were told to leave the military. In fact, Paul acknowledges the Romans as governing authority, and that they are ministers of God.
As Americans, we live in a constitutional republic. Each person can live by the dictates of his/her own conscience. Those that serve in the military help “secure the blessings of liberty.” If one chooses not to serve, it is their conscience.
Paul Hocker is a retired minister living in Riverside, CA. He was drafted during the Korean conflict. Pastor Hocker registered as a “conscience objector.” This would mean that he would serve as a medic, and that he did.
I asked Pastor Hocker, “are you a pacifist?” He emphatically said no. It was his conscience objection to raise arms against another, but he understood that war, from time to time, is necessary to secure the blessings of liberty. He is a very patriotic man; he loves being an American, and has no conflict with that and his deep devotion to Christ as His one and only King.
Tomorrow, between burgers, remember that humanity depends upon those that love freedom to protect those who need it most.
Happy Memorial Day