Christian-American: our Nationality, our Responsibility
About three years ago, I was really impressed with a passage in Heb. 11:13-16. Paul writes, "These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth. For they that say such things declare plainly that they seek a country. And truly, if they had been mindful of that country from whence they came out, they might have had opportunity to have returned. But now they desire a better country, that is, and heavenly: wherefore God is not ashamed to be called there God: for he hath prepared for them a city."
I am reminded of Abraham. God said to him, after that Lot had parted company with him, "Lift up now thine eyes, and look from the place where thou art northward, and southward, and eastward, and westward: For all the land which thou seest, to thee will I give it, and to thy seed forever." (Gen. 13:14-15)
Jesus told us, "Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth." (Matt. 5:5) We, then, as Abram and the patriarchs, are walking on promised land. The earth has been promised to us and we are "heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ." But we, as Abram, have not yet received what was promised. We can sing the popular chorus, laying claim to the words God spake to Joshua, "Every piece of ground that our feet shall walk on, that land is ours today," but the fact remains that, for now, we only have the promise.
Until such a time as the land is actually given to us, we must see ourselves as the men and women of God in times past saw themselves, strangers and pilgrims. For many years, the moral and societal standards of America were based on Judeo-Christian ethics. The "Christian" culture and that of society-at-large varied only slightly. American culture frowned upon much of the same things that were frowned upon by the believers. America, for all intents and purposes, was a Christian nation.
Times, however, have changed. "Morality," as defined by American society is, at best, loose when compared to the moral standards found in Godís word. Therefore, the culture of the church must now emerge as entirely apart and separate from that of society-at-large.
This is often the case of first- and second-generation immigrants to the U.S. You frequently see them keep company with others of the same origin, attempting to retain some, if not all, of their culture. Many times, the later generations realize the benefits of their ancestorís culture and revive it among those who were born and raised here. Even those who are naturalized as citizens see themselves as "strangers in a strange land." I have been amused at the ease with which I can pick a Russian family out of a crowd. Regardless of dress or language, they retain something inherently Russian. The same is true of any culture.
Why is it, then, that we Christians have become increasingly harder to pick out of a crowd. We are citizens of a heavenly country. Many believers have said, "Heaven is my home," yet they behave as though they feel right at home here.
When I became impressed with the passage in Hebrews, I realized that (although my last name is McNabb) I am not an Irish-American. I have no cultural connection to that country, from which my ancestors came centuries ago. I am a Christian-American.
It is the culture of the Bible, with which I was raised. I share the basic ethical and moral standards that all Bible-believers should possess. I am shocked and disgusted by the promotion of sin both in the media and in the schools. It is contrary to who and what I am.
Christianity is, as it were, a nationality. There are traits that are common to Christians, regardless of the nation in which they live. And, even as by looking at the face of someone, you can determine the nation of origin, when someone has accepted Christ and is born-again, it is all over their face. They have been born into a new nation.
When someone hears that I am a Christian, they expect me to behave a certain way. Why is it not always the case with the Christian himself? In fact, the world holds such a high standard for the believers, that when we, inevitably, fail to attain unto them, they accuse us of hypocrisy. The world watches the professed Christian, hoping to catch him or her in a fault. When you claim, therefore, to be a Christian, you must be prepared to act according to the Bibleís culture.
I recently heard a caller on a radio talk show say that she was turned off to bumper stickers. She had pulled up behind a car, whose bumper sticker read, "Honk if you love Jesus." When she proceeded to honk, the driver of that vehicle promptly responded by giving her the middle finger. This extreme case only illustrates that we, as professed Christians, must attain to a certain standard.
It is not to say that we must have an "holier than thou" attitude, only that we should obey God, to "be holy, even as our Father in heaven is holy." People of other cultures, in America, are happy to dress and behave according to those cultures. People, that is, except Christians. Even though they live in Americaís "western world," women of India gladly don the native dress, while Muslim men and women, out of love and respect for Allah, dress according to the traditions of Islam. Why is it then that we, as believers in Godís word, reject what He said about moderation and holy living, and comply with the American "status quo?"
"Be ye therefore followers of God, as dear children; And walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us, and hath given himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweetsmelling savour. But fornication, and all uncleanness, or covetousness, let it not be once named among you, as becometh saints; Neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor jesting, which are not convenient: but rather giving of thanks. For this ye know, that no whoremonger, nor unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, hath any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. Let no man deceive you with vain words: for because of these things cometh the wrath of God upon the children of disobedience. Be not ye therefore partakers with them. For ye were sometimes darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord: walk as children of light."
Paul, here in Eph. 5:1-8, tells us that we should forsake the culture of this world, and live, as becometh saints, according to the culture of the Bible. It is time that we begin to claim the responsibility of the saints of the Most High and express the culture described in the Bible openly and freely. Amen.