This Flag Day, Remember Your True Country!
We read much these days about nationalism, Pax Americana, a New World Order, “my country right or wrong.” This thought would have horrified our nation’s founders. We forget that our citizenship as Christians is not here on this earth but in heaven because we are members of a heavenly commonwealth (Philippians 3:20). We belong to the only Christian nation that ever existed because we are the people of God. Worldly nations contain Christians and may be influenced by Christian principles, but there will never be a Christian nation except the blood-bought children of God.
Jesus offered high praise for those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake. This is the same Jesus who said, “No man can serve two masters.” There were times in the early church when there was ample opportunity for suffering. Then and now, many have become martyrs because they refused to bow the knee to the state.
Ignatius, bishop of Antioch, was a martyr who died bravely for the cause of Jesus. During his journey to Rome he wrote to his fellow Christians regarding his impending sacrifice. As we read selections from his letter, we may ask ourselves, what would motivate someone to suffer for his faith? What separates courage from foolhardiness?
Another courageous Christian was Polycarp. The report of his martyrdom is well worth contemplating:
And he was met by Herod, the captain of police, and by his father Nicetes, who took him into their carriage, and sitting beside him endeavored to persuade him, saying, “For what harm is there in saying, Lord Caesar, and sacrificing and saving your, life?” He at first did not answer; but when they persisted, he said, “I am not going to do what you advise me.” And when they failed to persuade him, they uttered dreadful words, and thrust him down with violence, so that as he descended from the carriage he lacerated his shin. But without turning round, he went on his way promptly and rapidly, as if nothing had happened to him, and was taken to the stadium.
But there was such a tumult in the stadium that not many heard a voice from heaven, which came to Polycarp as he was entering the place: “Be strong, Polycarp, and play the man.” And no one saw the speaker, but many of our people heard the voice. And when he was led forward, there was a great tumult, as they heard that Polycarp was taken. Finally, when he came up, the proconsul asked if he were Polycarp. And when he confessed that he was, he endeavored to persuade him to deny, saying, “Have regard for thine age,” and other like things, which it is their custom to say: “Swear by the genius of Caesar; repent and say, Away with the Atheists.”
But Polycarp, looking with dignified countenance upon the whole crowd that was gathered in the stadium, waved his hand to them, and groaned, and raising his eyes toward heaven, said, “Away with the Atheists.” But when the magistrate pressed him, and said, “Swear, and I will release thee; revile Christ,” Polycarp said, “Fourscore and six years have I been serving him, and he hath done me no wrong; how then can I blaspheme my king who saved me?”
But when he again persisted, and said, “Swear by the genius of Caesar,” Polycarp replied, “If thou vainly supposest that I will swear by the genius of Caesar, as thou sayest, feigning to be ignorant who I am, hear plainly: I am a Christian.”
As in olden times, so today: God’s people need to be what they are—heavenly colonials and holy nationals, a Master’s Minority in a pagan land. I am grateful to be an American, but America is not a Christian nation. America is a mission field. It’s high time for Americans to repent of their idolatrous cry, “Caesar is Lord”!
This Flag Day, let us remember that a holy nation lives to show forth the praises of Him who called us out of darkness into His marvelous light.
June 12, 2003
David Alan Black is the editor of www.daveblackonline.com.