BEING A CHRISTIAN AMERICAN
(I. Peter 2:11-15), “Dearly beloved, I beseech you as strangers and pilgrims abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul; Having your conversation honest among the Gentiles: that, whereas they speak against you as evildoers, they may by your good works, which they shall behold, glorify God in the day of visitation. Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake: whether it be to the king, as supreme; Or unto governors, as unto them that are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers, and for the praise of them that do well. For so is the will of God, that with well doing ye may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men.”
A missionary friend sings the song, “American Christian.” In this song it says; “In God I will trust, united I will stand with my brothers and sisters all over this land. I love the Lord, I love the U.S of A.; it’s the land of the free, sweet liberty, and I’m not ashamed to say, I’m an American Christian, born in the U.S. of A.; American Christian, born again by God’s grace. I thank God for my country where I can worship and pray. American Christian, lovin my Jesus in the U.S. of A.; Now, this country was founded by a few godly men, And I, as a Christian, I have rights I’ll defend. Now I love America and I love Jesus too. Every night on my knees I ask the Lord, Please God Bless the Red, White, and Blue. I’m an American Christian, born in the U.S. of A.; American Christian, been born again by God’s grace. I thank God for my country where I can worship and pray. I’m an American Christian, Lovin my Jesus in the U.S. of A.
There has been a trend in recent years for Americans to hyphenate their name, in order to distinguish who or what they are. People are no longer just Americans; they are Jewish-Americans, Polish-Americans, African-Americans, Asian-Americans. The hyphens are not just limited to race either. There are disabled-Americans, Obese-Americans, and Vegetarian-Americans. Honestly, much of the hyphenation in our nation is silly, and in some cases anti-American. However, if any group would be justified in using a hyphen, it would be those Americans who are followers of Jesus Christ. The Christian-American pledges allegiance to the American flag, while also holding up the blood-stained banner of Christ and His Church. The Christian-American will fight for the freedom of their fellow-countrymen, while at the same time yielding himself to the rule of the King of Kings. The Christian-American will place his hand over their heart and sing The Star Spangled Banner, and will lift those same hands with equal reverence as they sing Amazing Grace. The Christian-American loves their country, and yet they look for another country that is yet to come. As Christian-Americans, we have a unique place in our nation, unlike any of her other citizens.
In our text, Peter wrote to a group of Christians that had been persecuted and scattered throughout the Roman Empire because of their faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. And as Peter wrote to these Christians some 2,000 years ago, he points out to them that they have a dual role as Christians. On the one hand they were residents in an earthly country and on the other hand they were also citizens of heaven. As dual citizens, Peter advised them on how they were to live out their dual roles as residents in an earthly country, and citizens of the heavenly kingdom. By studying Peter’s advice to the believers in his day, we learn some important truths for our lives as Christian-Americans today.
- OUR CONNECTION WITH THIS COUNTRY (I. Peter 2:11)
Peter referred to the believers scattered throughout Rome as “strangers and pilgrims.” Though the majority of them were citizens of the Roman Empire, in pointing out they were strangers and pilgrims, Peter was telling them their connection to their country was unique. I am proud to be an American. I am grateful to God that I was born in this great nation, and I gladly pledge my allegiance to her. Yet, America is not the only country and land to which Christians are connected. We are “strangers” and “pilgrims” and we are just passing through, because this world is not our home. And while we may live in among native people in this country, we are not to be truly like them, because there is supposed to be something strange and foreign about the life of a Christian. As Christian-Americans, we may live in the same communities as the lost people around us, but we are not supposed to love the same culture as those around us. We are supposed to be strangers in this world. We are not to become comfortable with the sinful amusements of our society. We are not to be compliant with the social pressures of this godless age. While we share a common land, we are not supposed to share a common life. The believer is a stranger in this world, and the Christian-American is supposed to be different from the American that does not know Christ. As a Christian, I am on my way to heaven, but until I get there, I am a red-blooded, flag-waving, tax-paying, citizen of the great Republic of the United States of America. I believe in the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, apple pie, and baseball. I support the troops, I won’t burn a flag, and I vote when they open the polls. But also as a Christian-American, I am a citizen of another country, and therefore am a stranger and pilgrim to this world.
- OUR CONDUCT IN THIS COUNTRY (I. Peter 2:11-12)
After the apostle reminds us of our unique connection to our country, he goes on to instruct us on how we are to conduct and behave ourselves as God’s people in this nation. Firstly, he says, Our Conduct should be Abstinence; “we are to abstain from fleshly lusts.” The word “abstain” means to “hold back.” The Word of God says that as heavenly citizens of an earthly country, we should hold ourselves back from the lusts and desires of our sinful flesh. But as sad as it is to say, we live in a day when hedonism rules and too often the motto is, “If it feels good, do it.” We live in a time when people across our nation will satisfy any desire, and fill any craving, regardless of the moral boundaries they cross in order to do so. Things that were once culturally shameful are now widely accepted. The line between right and wrong has been blurred, or erased all together. Yet, in the midst of a permissive, pagan, and promiscuous society, we as God’s people must hold back. We cannot give into the lusts that war against us day after day. Secondly, Our Conduct should be Attractive, “having your conversation honest among the Gentiles.” The word “conversation” means “behavior or conduct.” The word “honest” means “beautiful.” The idea is that our lives should be beautiful and attractive to the world around us. We should live in such a unique and Christ-like way that our lives are magnetic to those without Christ. As Christian-Americans, we should be less concerned with looking like the models in the magazines, and more like the Christ in the Scriptures.
- OUR CONTRIBUTIONS TO THIS COUNTRY (I. Peter 2:13-15)
In (Matthew 5:13-16), Jesus taught that His followers were to be the salt of the earth and the light in their world. The idea behind Jesus’ teaching is that, Christians are supposed to make a contribution and an impact upon the place where they live. In our text, Peter deals with the kind of role we are to play in our country, and the contribution we are supposed to make as Christian-Americans. Firstly, We Respect the Law (v. 13-14), “Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake: whether it be to the king, as supreme; Or unto governors, as unto them that are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers, and for the praise of them that do well.” Peter was teaching these persecuted and scattered believers the importance of submitting to the social order in which they lived. For them, it was the Roman Empire, which at times was very difficult to endure. For Christian-Americans, the social rule in our lives happens to be the laws of the United States. While we may not agree with all the laws of our land, we have a Christian responsibility to obey them as long as they do not cause us to violate the Word of God. The truth we draw from this text is that; the greatest Americans ought to be Christian-Americans. Secondly, We Represent the Lord (v. 15), “For so is the will of God, that with well doing ye may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men.” The phrase, “put to silence” means, “to muzzle, or to close the mouth of someone.” We don’t have to look too far to know that Christianity in our country is under attack by those who are ignorant of the truth and foolish in their attitudes that openly make fun of conservative Christians. But Peter says that we can actually shut the mouths of men mock and make fun of Christianity through well doing, by doing good, and by living for Christ. The reality is, that as, Christian-Americans we are the representatives of Jesus Christ, and the greatest contribution we can make to our country is portraying Jesus in our lives.
Pastor Allen Jackson