For a long time there's been a general suspicion among us americans that the rest of the world probably thinks we're jerks. This goes back decades to the days of the "Ugly American" and is supposed to be more intense now that we're the only superpower. But in fact a worldwide survey by the Pew Institute recently found that most of the world likes us too. So I'd say we have a right to celebrate ourselves at least one day a year.
Most people have probably felt the same way about their homelands down through the ages. Mongols were proud to be mongols, serfs were proud of their lords, and romans thought it was an illustrious thing to be a roman. Even St. Paul would pull out his roman citizenship on occasion:
Paul (loud enough that the police can hear): Just a minute. This is unjust. We’ve been stripped naked, beaten in public, and thrown into jail, all without a trial of any kind. Now they want to release us secretly as if nothing happened? No way: we’re Roman citizens—we shouldn’t be treated like this! If the city officials want to release us, then they can come and tell us to our faces [that we're free].(Book of Acts 16.37, Voice)
|Where Paul claimed his rights as a Roman|
Real CountryInterestingly enough, a few years later Paul wrote a letter to the group of Jesus' followers in Philippi, the city where this happened. In it he makes a point that we 21st century US citizens would do well to keep in mind as we celebrate our country.
To the very people who had witnessed the Apostle forcefully insist on his citizenship in the only superpower of his time, Paul reminds them what country they really belong to.
We are citizens of heaven, exiles on earth waiting eagerly for a Liberator, our Lord Jesus the Anointed, to come and transform these humble, earthly bodies into the form of His glorious body by the same power that brings all things under His control.(Philippians 3.20-21, Voice)
No matter what nation we live in or how much we may love it, members of the Christian Movement have given their allegiance to another country and another ruler.
Paul had just finished writing this:
So God raised Him up to the highest place(Philippians 2.9-11, Voice)
and gave Him the name above all.
So when His name is called,
every knee will bow,
in heaven, on earth, and below.
And every tongue will confess
“Jesus, the Anointed One, is Lord,”
to the glory of God our Father!
I'm particularly fond of N.T. Wright's little quote, "If Jesus is Lord, then Caesar is not." Jesus of Nazareth is our true King now, and eventually "every knee will bow" to him. Our knees -- the knees of the Christian Movement -- have already had the privilege of bowing to him. We have independence from every 'Caesar' that rules anywhere.
Today amidst our fireworks and barbeque and current geopolitical dominance, remember who you really are and where you really live.