Riddled in history are stories of patriotism. People who go out of their way to stand up for what is right and good. In the early days of the United States, we hear of stories where ordinary people stand up to the oppression that was encompassing them. Even today, we hear of uprisings that can be considered patriotic.
Look at the news today. There are a lot of people standing up for what they believe is right and good. They march and cry out, “Freedom from oppression!” The stand and sit for days and weeks hoping to convince their government to change their ways for the betterment of the people. Every year there are marches against homosexuality and for homosexuality. We see marches against banking and investment firms. We see marches against abortion and for women’s rights to choose. But are all marches and protests patriotic. To discover this, let’s take a look at what the real definition of patriotism is:
Patriotism is a “love for or devotion to one’s country”. That’s it. If you have a love or are devoted to your country then congratulations, you are a patriot. Or does it? A patriot is “one who loves his country and supports its authority and interests.” Hmmm….now we are getting a little deeper. So if we are to be considered patriots, we need to actually consider supporting our government’s authority and interests. But does that mean we should agree with everything our government supports?
There is one story in the Bible that can help place into perspective how we should look at our government’s authority and interests. Let’s take a look at what happened to Jesus when He was confronted to pay taxes. During the first century, the Roman government imposed taxes to the common people. The Roman governors would employ Jewish “tax collectors” who would add more to the tax than what the Roman government required.
Matthew, the man who has a book of the Bible named after him, was one of those tax collectors. In his account, Jesus had been teaching by way of a parable. At the end of one specific parable, the Pharisees wanted to trap Jesus so they sent their ‘disciples’ to question Jesus regarding paying taxes. Knowing Jesus didn’t side with the rest of normal Jewish society, He asks the Pharisee disciples to show him a coin. He asks, “Who is pictured there?” They replied, “Caesar”. Jesus then makes a very profound statement, “Then render to Caesar to what is Caesars; and render to God what is God’s.” AMAZING!
Jesus made a statement that, for the common man, would have resulted in beatings and abuse. However, because of the way He responded, the Pharisee disciples were amazed and just left. They couldn’t say anything. Why? Well if Christ said not to pay taxes, then He would have been considered a zealot against Rome, which would have resulted in his immediate death. It would also have meant that He sinned. Sinned? If Jesus had defied the official government of his day for something as simple as paying taxes, then He would have been defying the order God intended.
Throughout the Old and New Testaments, God shows us that we are to submit to the authority over us. We are required to obey in all areas except when our government says not to pray, read the Bible or share God’s word. Daniel defied his governors and prayed anyway. So Jesus did not sin by taking His stance. He basically said, “Listen to those who rule over you and pay your taxes.”
What amazed the people was that he then turned to those disciples of the Pharisees and said, “…and also give to God what is His.” What does God require? You. All of you. All of who you are and what you do. He requires perfection which can only be obtained through the work of His Son, Jesus Christ. When we accept Jesus as our Savior, God looks at us through Jesus’ eyes, where He sees what you will become one day, perfect like Christ. What a wonderful outcome.
Another lesson taught in Scripture is to submit to the authorities that govern over us.
Romans 13:1 (NASB)
Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God.
Does it say some people? No. It says everyone. All of us should understand that all authority over us has been allowed by God. All current rulers, whether we like them or not, have been established by God Himself. Does this mean that we need to do everything they say? The problem is in the word “submit”.
Submission is not a passive, wimpy, whiney word. In fact, this word is active and positive. All that submission means is to respect the authority over us and listen to them according to God’s word. It doesn’t mean they are better than us. It doesn’t mean that what they do is all from God. It doesn’t mean that we have to do everything they say just because they say so. It does mean that we understand who they are; Who appointed them and what they ask us to do (most times) we should obey.
The only time Scripture excuses us from listening to our rulers is in cases when it interrupts our relationship with God and His message going out into the world. As I stated earlier, did not Daniel disobey the rulers when told not to pray? Did not the disciples disobey the rulers when they were told not to share the Gospel?
Nowhere in Scripture did anyone, who loves God and does what He says, stand up for political or economic reasons. You won’t find anyone fighting the rulers just because they don’t agree with the speed limit. However, we do see civil disobedience done with love. That is what sets us apart than the rest of the world. We are to obey those over us. We are to listen and trust those over us. Why? Because God placed them there and if God placed them there, don’t you think He is still in control?
We can stand up for what we believe in, but we should never show anger or hatred. We are called to show love. If those around us don’t agree with us, then that’s okay. However, if you look around, most times these marches turn to hateful words and forceful disobedience. This is sinful.
Although our leaders can’t get along these days and don’t agree on most platforms, it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t listen to them. In fact, we should pray for them and if possible counsel them. There is an old saying that goes, “No one care how much you know until they know how much you care.” This is true and right. If we show our leaders we love them, they will start to have a tendency to listen to us. Then and only then can we be considered patriotic. Be a patriot and pray for our leaders. They need all the prayers we can offer.