Is Patriotism Spiritual?


June 2006

Dear Ministry Partners,

As we celebrate July 4th each year in America, some people wonder if "patriotism" is spiritual. While God's Kingdom is what we will eternally celebrate, God Himself set up boundaries for individual nations in this earth age (examples Num. 34:1-12, Deut. 32:8). Patriotism ultimately is any selfless act for the good of the nation of people you belong to. This could be as simple as flying an American flag at appropriate times, up to the giving of one's life in military service. Patriotism is "giving" for the benefit of others in your country, and also showing gratitude to others who have given for your benefit. Doesn't that sound Biblical? Patriotism as we know it should not be the worship of a country's military forces, but we should give appreciation where it is due. This includes law enforcement and fire fighting personnel. But the military services are where you usually find the greatest sacrificial giving for the good of the nation. Concerning those who have served in combat, it has been often said, "All gave some, and some gave all."

God directed and supported the establishment and defense of the nation of Israel, and God directly helped individuals who defended the nation of Israel (examples include David killing Goliath and the Philistines, and judges such as Samson and Deborah). God was the author of the institutions of government and armies (Rom. 13:3-4). God knows the evil tendencies of unsaved men (John 2:24-25, Jer. 17:9), and He ordained "military force" as a protection for innocent men, women, and children. During the apocryphal years following the death of Alexander the Great, Israel "experimented" with not using military force to defend themselves, and were significantly defeated. One of Alexander's generals, called Ptolemy I, surnamed Soter, seized Jerusalem on a Sabbath day in 320 B.C. when the Jews would not fight because they thought it would be unspiritual on a Sabbath. This example of "pacifism" resulted in the entire nation of Israel falling under the rule of a succession of the Ptolemies for over 120 years. Additionally, Archbishop James Ussher's Annals of the World documents that Ptolemy deported 100,000 Jewish men to Egypt, certainly breaking up tens of thousands of families.

In 199 B.C., the Syrian Antiochus repeated the Sabbath day strategy to attack Jerusalem when the Jews would not fight and history records he slaughtered them unmercifully. Antiochus then proceeded to end all practice of the Jewish faith, destroyed all available copies of scripture, erected a pagan deity on the Temple altar, and sacrificed unclean swine all over the Temple grounds to defile it. At this time, about 15 miles west of Jerusalem, an aging priest named Mattathias and his 5 sons decided the 120 year experiment in pacifism had nearly exterminated the Jewish people, and they took up arms to save their lives and deliver the remnant of Israel. The aged Mattathias soon died, but he had appointed his son Judah as his successor, known today as Judas "the Maccabee" (which means "the hammer"). Some feel Judah was one of the Old Testament era's "types of Christ", delivering the Jews from the unGodly Antiochus (a preview of the anti-Christ). Judah cleansed the Temple, ground to powder the idol statue Antiochus had placed there, and re-lit the lamp stand in the Temple on the 25th of Kislev (December) to re-start scriptural worship of God as it should have been under the covenant of that time. Judah celebrated with an 8 day Feast of Dedication, now known as Hanukkah, the Feast of Lights.

Soldiers risking their lives in a just war in defense of innocent lives is one of the most unselfish things a human being can do. Jesus addressed this concept when He said, "Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one's life for his friends." (John 15:13). Jesus went on to lay down His own life for us, in what was a "battle" for the eternal life of multitudes of men, women, and children. Further, the Bible reveals to us that even righteous angels engage in a very real ongoing "war" for the saints (Dan. 10:13, Rev. 12:7). So God understands the need for soldiers.

God wants us to show appreciation to those who have demonstrated this unselfishness. The demonstration of unselfishness is one of the things that God greatly desires in humans; and the opposite — selfishness — is the great enemy of God, the church, and mankind in general. Selfishness is like harmful bacteria — most people have a little here and there, but too much can cause fatal problems. Many people are not highly patriotic because patriotism requires selflessness. So practicing patriotism and encouraging it in others is actually a cultivation of selflessness in ourselves and society — a very Godly thing to do.

Below are some quotations from famous leaders regarding showing appreciation for those who have served our country.

"The willingness with which our young people are likely to serve in any war, no matter how justified, will be directly proportional to how they perceive the veterans of earlier wars were treated and appreciated by their nation." — President George Washington

"The soldier above all other people prays for peace, for he must suffer and bear the deepest wounds and scars of war." — General Douglas MacArthur

"A nation reveals itself not only by the men it produces but also by the men it honors, the men it remembers." — President John F. Kennedy

"But we request of you, brethren, that you appreciate those who diligently labor among you." — Apostle Paul (1st Thes. 5:12)

Another positive Biblical character quality is loyalty. The Bible strongly encourages loyalty in relationships (such as "Thou shalt not commit adultery", etc.). A particular nation is just a very large collection of relationships, so patriotism is just loyalty to a large group of people. When that kind of loyalty is betrayed, we call it treason. An example of this loyalty betrayed is Aldrich Ames who was probably the most damaging traitor in CIA history. According to CNN news, "Ames began selling U.S. secrets to the Russian KGB in 1985. Within a decade he had revealed more than 100 covert operations and betrayed at least 30 agents, 10 of whom were later executed by the Soviets. Along with his co-conspirator and wife, Rosario, Ames was paid more than $2.7 million for the information before he was arrested in 1994. He was convicted and sentenced to life in prison without parole." If treason like this is bad, then the opposite — patriotism — is good and should be encouraged.

So how do we express patriotism? There are many ways. It is not insignificant to fly an American flag at certain holidays, stand to sing our national anthem, attend special events related to Memorial Day, Independence Day, and Veterans Day, write to military personnel overseas or send them packages, donate to the local chapter of the VFW, pray for our leaders, and other tangible ways to show our support for our nation. But we need to be personally committed to the good of our country, and committed to show specific appreciation to those who have served in any significant ways. #1) Look for unique needs in our country or society that you can meet, and #2) look for those around you who have given of themselves in order to find ways to show them appreciation. The gratitude you express may encourage them far more than you know.

Last, supporting Christian ministry may be one of the most "patriotic" things you and I will ever do. Judi and I believe that preserving and expanding Christianity in our nation is the best thing we can do for America. Our very existence as Western civilization with traditional Biblical and family values depends on Christian ministry being able to be the "salt and light." Your part in rewarding our work and helping us expand will be strategic and greatly appreciated.

For God and Country,

Dale & Judi Leander


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