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Deleted Scenes: A decline in patriotism (James 2:1-13)

A Note From Craig...
As most of you know, this past Monday was Canada Day. Our family celebrated by all wearing red shirts for most of the day. For Canadians, that’s borderline fanatical on Canada Day, isn’t it? Yes, there are some concerts and community activities, but Canada Place didn’t even have its usual fireworks display this year. Maybe that relative lack of celebration isn’t surprising, since Canadians are famously ambivalent about their national identity. Who are we really? What makes us us? Should we even feel good about our history? I wonder how much the legacy of residential schools has recently impacted the lack of Canadian patriotism.

This newsletter will also come out on July 4, which is Independence Day in the United States. In contrast to us Canadians, Americans have historically been famously patriotic. I was at a regular season Los Angeles Angels baseball game a couple of months ago, and it opened with a military flyover! Having a mother who lives in Oklahoma has also increased my sense of how proud Americans are of their country. It’s rare for local neighbourhoods to celebrate July 4 without fireworks, never mind a major city! (Again, I know this because my mom and step-dad invest big money every year in their own backyard fireworks show). However, even in the US, there is now more ambivalence about patriotism than there once was. Enlistment in the military is way down. More shame seems to be being experienced about America’s history.

What should we, as. Christians, say about this apparent decline in patriotism? On one level, I believe it’s quite challenging to make a case for patriotism in the Bible. Of course, we are to respect and pray for whatever authorities exist in the locations God has placed us (1 Peter 2:13-14, 1 Timothy 2:1-2). But pride in our nation? I’m not sure you’ll find that in the New Testament. In fact, Paul says that some ethnic markers that he once put so much stock in now mean nothing to him compared to the joy of knowing Christ (Philippians 3:4-11).

I’m thinking about this in relation to the text from James 2 because of the “royal law” James quotes in verse 8: “love your neighbour as yourself”. As I mentioned on Sunday, Jesus cited this as the second greatest command in all the Scriptures. In Luke’s Gospel, a man asks Jesus to clarify: who is the neighbour that I am to love as myself? Jesus’ response was the famous parable of the “Good Samaritan”. The punchline of that story is that the most neighbourly person was not a fellow Jew who was physically nearby, but rather a foreigner from a hated people group (the Samaritans). The idea is that if you’re simply loving the people who are easy to love, or the people who share an ethnic similarity to you, or have the same political affiliation as you, or the same socio-economic status as you (the issue in James 2), you are not fulfilling the “royal law”. Anyone God puts in your path is a neighbour that you’re called to love.

This is one of a variety of ways in which Christian faith de-emphasizes the importance of national identity. If your faith is in Christ, then who you are is first and foremost determined by that faith. Long before you are a Canadian or American or a North Vancouverite or anything else, you are a follower of Jesus. That gets to the teaching from James 2. Our view of others is not to be driven by the default ways of evaluating people in our culture. We are not to see each other primarily through the labels our world applies: whether that’s ethnicity, wealth, physical attractiveness, or so on. We want to see people the way God sees them. We want to prioritize the heart above all else, regardless of what nation people identify with.

So wear your red shirts on Canada Day if you want, go to a fireworks show if you’re in the US this week, and thank God for the blessings we have living in a country like ours. However, I don’t believe patriotic decline is the biggest concern from a Christian perspective. The biggest concern is what we replace that with as identity markers and the lens through which we see others. Our culture is trying desperately and vainly to find other alternatives. May the church show the good fruit that comes from rooting our identity in Christ.

- Craig


Bruce Kienlen - July 5th, 2024 at 9:40am


Norly Tuggay - July 5th, 2024 at 3:13pm

The love of God is to be reflected in how we approach and treat others. More so, our way of life reflects our relationship with Jesus. God did not just gave us the commandment to love our neighbors (Mark 12:30-31) but to love even our enemies (Luke 6:27-28).