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Playing With Fireworks

Being American makes being a Christian difficult.

Granted, we still have a Constitutional freedom that makes it easy to be religious. But the zeitgeist of the American spirit, by its very nature, is at odds with the posture God expects of His followers.

As we recently celebrated on July 4th, America’s story is a rags-to-riches narrative that boasts of independence, promotes acquisition of “stuff,” and celebrates status.

The problem is that none of this resonates with Jesus.

Unlike the aims of America’s founding fathers, Jesus did not encourage His followers to become self-made men. In contrast, He taught them utter dependence upon God for their daily bread, much like Moses trained the Israelites to gather manna up one day at a time, trusting in God to provide the food they needed. The Gospel Jesus preached included metaphors that screamed  of this dependence: Jesus was the Bread of Life; our Living Water; the Way, the Truth, and the Life. In other words, everything mankind needs is embodied in Jesus Christ.

But what about the American Dream? Aren’t we all supposed to strive for the two-story house with the picket fence? The summer vacations? The Golden Retriever and the 2.4 kids? And isn’t the penultimate status, second only to eternal security in Heaven, to live in middle-class, suburban America?

We should answer these questions cautiously, carefully filtering our patriotism through the teachings of Jesus Christ. When Jesus sent His disciples to spread the Gospel, He instructed them not to take extra clothing or supplies. When He taught them about money, He warned them about the Slip and Slide set up in the yard between wealth and Hell. His parable of a rich man who builds bigger barns to hold more stuff calls this man a “fool” and cautions, “So is the one who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God” (Luke 12:21).

American values, then, should not be mistaken for God’s. Our Heavenly citizenship sets us free from the shallow significance offered by wealth, status, and achievement. Instead, we are invited to completely depend on God and shed the burden of constant striving. Ironically, our reward for doing this is the lavish, gold-laden, show-stopping glory of Heaven.

Author: Carren Marvin

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