FAITHFUL WORDS Dr. Kenneth L. Faught On loving God and country “Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord . . .” (Psalm 33:12). The late William Sloane Coffin, a prophet of our times, said, “There are three kinds of patriots – two bad, one good. The bad ones are the uncritical lovers and the loveless critics. Good patriots carry on a lover’s quarrel with their country, a reflection of God’s lover’s quarrel with all the world.” How do we show our love for our country? The Bible instructs us clearly regarding the nature of good Christian citizenship. We are to pay our taxes. Jesus laid down the principle in Matthew 22:15-22: “Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and unto God the things that are God’s.” He was responding to a question about paying taxes to the Roman government! All of us feel the pain of the tax burden from time to time. We may even be inclined to feel that nationalism is a matter of taxes benefitting us (roads and parks) and socialism is taxes benefitting others (healthcare). Good citizenship also means obeying the laws of the land (Paul discusses this in Romans 13:1-7). Good citizenship includes praying for our leaders – even the ones we didn’t vote for (see 1 Timothy 2:1-4). I would add that voting and public service are also good ways to “love your country”. The Bible would also caution us not to confuse God and country with each other. The “Render unto Caesar” reference does not imply that God and country are equal! There really is no “most favored nation clause” in God’s constitution. Though Israel was chosen early on, it was for the purpose of being a blessing to ALL nations (Genesis 12). God transcends borders and nationalities. To worship a nation as divine is to commit idolatry by suspending judgment and becoming “uncritical lovers”. Our temptation (born of pride) is to think God wears an “America First” label pin. Of course, other nations think the same. The result is unholy holy wars. Loving our country is healthiest within the context of loving God supremely. We are, Paul said, “fellowcitizens of the household of God” (Ephesians 2:19). What might this mean? Glad you asked. The Bible would instruct us to: pay our tithes and give our offerings; pray for our (church) leaders; participate in the life and work of our local congregation. Citizenship has its privileges – and its responsibilities. Well beyond the Fourth of July we are still called to be “good patriots.” Dr. Faught is Pastor of The LaFollette United Methodist Church.