“Saving Private Ryan” is one of my all-time favorite movies. There are several reasons for this: 1) I like visceral depictions of men making sacrifice for greater causes; 2) I have a deep appreciation for the men who gave everything in defense of our freedoms and the freedoms of the defenseless; 3) I saw this film with my dad in the theater.
This film emotionally stirs you from the get go. Both at the core of manhood and citizenship, you are moved in some way…guaranteed. With that said, it’s impossible not to consider that these are still depictions of the best that men have to give, and reminders of what the apostle Paul said in Romans 5:6-8…
For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die—
but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
That does not diminish the film or what it depicts. Actually, for lack of a better word, it redeems it a bit. We are launched from great earthly sacrifice to the beauty of glorious ultimate, divine sacrifice and purchased freedom.
That is a fair understanding of my view of the American-ization of the local church…perspective. I want to make sure that while we live in a distinctly western / American culture that we remember that we are ultimately citizens of His kingdom and ambassadors here. Paul speaks to this as well in 2 Corinthians 5:6-10, 20-21…
So we are always of good courage. We know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, for we walk by faith, not by sight. Yes, we are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord. So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil…
Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
So, we can honor veterans, pray for our president, promote civic good, and bless our cities. But we must keep it in perspective.
Let me give an example. This morning, I’m working at Starbucks, and a young Asian girl comes in with her mother and asks, “Why is it so American in here?” There are a few more red, white, and blue decorations because the 4th of July is coming soon. But I couldn’t help but wonder, “How many internationals walk into the American church and ask the same question?”
I have family that have served in the military. I would have gone if Desert Storm had elevated to an old school draft. I’m willing to serve my nation. However, my allegiance ultimately lies with the King of Heaven and Earth. My passion ultimately is rooted in the understanding that all nations will be brought before Him. I do not believe America is the answer to all that is wrong with the world. I believe that God establishes governments (Romans 13) in the world, and I believe that He has forever established that Christ reign supreme (Isaiah 9:6-7)…
For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given;
and the government shall be upon his shoulder,
and his name shall be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Of the increase of his government and of peace
there will be no end,
on the throne of David and over his kingdom,
to establish it and to uphold it
with justice and with righteousness
from this time forth and forevermore.
The zeal of the LORD of hosts will do this.
We should be ever grateful for our freedoms in the United States. We should hold to the common good that is our great country. We should promote justice and civility among the citizenship of this great land. However, as good as these pursuits are, they are not the Good News. God calls people to repentance from sin to the worship of Himself. He does not first call us to a cultural adoption of Western practices or citizenship before He calls us to Himself.
So, how American should the church be? We should speak the language of our nation, know the issues our nation faces, and promote a Gospel that is impartial to nationalities and proclaim that freedom of the tyranny of sin and Satan is far greater than the tyranny (even if perceived) of other political beliefs, rulers, or nations.