I am proud to be a citizen of the United States of America. I believe she is the single greatest country in the history of the world. And I thank God regularly for the sheer privilege of having been born here in her midst. I also find myself overwhelmed when I reflect on the sacrifices made by generations of American service men and women which made possible my freedoms.
But as a follower of Jesus Christ, I know that I hold dual citizenship – in both an earthly country and in a Heavenly Kingdom. The Apostle Paul understood this principle well. When his life was threatened after he had been unjustly treated, he asserted his rights as a citizen of the mighty Roman Empire (Acts 22:25). Those who had beaten him without a trial were suddenly quite afraid for what they had done. At the same time, in Philippians 3:20, Paul asserted that, ultimately, his citizenship, as a believer, was in Heaven.
The point here is that, while it is right and fitting that we embrace the earthy country of our birth by loving, honoring, supporting, and defending her, it is also equally important that we do the same for our other Kingdom - the one up in Heaven. In short, for the follower of Jesus Christ, while earthly patriotism is praiseworthy, it is not enough.
Six decades ago, the great pulpiteer, H. A. Ironside, addressed this very issue. He asked the simple question of whether or not patriotism by itself was enough. Here are his thoughts:
"When nations are engaged in deadly strife, it is common for patriots to declare that he who gives his life for defense of his country may be certain of a home in heaven because of having made the supreme sacrifice.
This teaching is in accord with the principles of the Moslem religion and not with true Christianity. Mahomet promised his fanatical followers a place in Paradise if they died for the faith in conflict with the 'infidels' who rejected his teachings.
Patriotism is a virtue of which any man may well be proud. 'Lives there a man with soul so dead, who never to himself hath said, this is my own, my native land?' But patriotism, praiseworthy as it is from the human standpoint, will never fit the soul for the presence of God. It can never wash away the guilt of sin."
He then tells the story of Edith Cavell, a brave British nurse who was killed by the Germans during the First World War.
"This noble woman was born in Swardeston, Norfold, on December 4, 1865. She entered the London Hospital for nurses’ training in 1895. In 1907 she was appointed first matron of the Berkendael Medical Institute at Brussels, Belgium. This became the Red Cross Hospital in Belgium at the outbreak of the conflict in 1914.
From August of that year, until August, 1915, Nurse Cavell helped to care for wounded French, Belgian, English and German soldiers alike. She ministered faithfully even to those who had fallen while fighting against her own nation.
Naturally, her sympathies were with the Allies, and in cooperation with the efforts of Prince Reginald de Croy, she aided many derelict English and French soldiers who had fled from the Germans. These escaped by 'underground' methods to the Dutch frontier, where, with the aid of guides, they were conveyed across to Britain.
When some of these fugitives were traced to her house in Brussels, she was immediately arrested and after a court-martial was sentenced to face a firing-squad. All her kindness to the German wounded was forgotten. Her captors considered her a spy and treated her accordingly.
Just before the bandage was placed over her eyes, as she stood fearlessly facing the soldiers who were about to take her life, she gave a last message to the world. 'I am glad,' she said, 'to die for my country. But as I stand here I realize as never before that patriotism is not enough.'
Then she went on to give a clear, definite testimony to her personal faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and her assurance of salvation, not through laying down her life for others, but because He laid down His life for her. In perfect composure, she submitted to the bandaging of her eyes and, in a few moments fell, pierced by many German bullets.
Her words, 'patriotism is not enough!' have spoken loudly to many in the years that have gone since she died a martyr to her convictions. Yet many forget this.
'What more is needed?' you may ask. The answer is 'Christ!' It is through faith in Him alone that the soul is saved and Heaven assured."
How right he was. As we approach the Fourth of July holiday and all of its accompanying activity, be thankful for your country. Be thankful for your freedoms. Be thankful for those who died and made all these things possible.
But remember as well, the fact that, as a Christian, you are also a citizen of Heaven. And as your citizenship in that Kingdom would not have been possible without Jesus Christ and His sacrifice, make certain that you take time to thank Him and to acknowledge the price He paid for your spiritual freedom as well.
Lastly, as you share a hot dog or a piece of apple pie, make certain to let your neighbors know that they can become citizens of Heaven as well. All are welcome in that Kingdom.
Whosoever will, let him come.
“Greater love hath no man that this, that a man lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13).
“When we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son” (Romans 5:10).
*SOURCE: Illustrations of Bible Truth by H. A. Ironside, Moody Press, 1945, pp. 60-61, as quoted at: https://bible.o