As Americans, we get to enjoy a great deal of freedom that others in the world can only imagine. Typically, we seek to enjoy the full extent of those freedoms, taking full advantage of the rights and privileges and leveraging them to our own benefit.
As Christians, we have been given freedom from sin, from the law, from condemnation and from death through Christ. But, as Paul reminds us in his letter to Galatia, God expects us to have a different reaction to this newfound freedom. He writes,
“You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love. For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”
Regarding our freedom, our mindset should change from, “Is it legal?” to, “Is it love?” In most areas, God’s law and the law of the land line up, like in the case of murder. It’s both legal and loving to not murder your neighbor. However, there are areas in which our identity as a Christian can come in conflict with our American identity.
For example, the first amendment secures your freedom of speech, but God expects you to use that freedom to love your neighbor. Your speech shouldn’t just be legal, but loving. Especially in our current culture, speech that loves and honors others can be hard to find and will be clearly seen as supernatural.
We may have to ask ourselves other hard questions like, “Do I love and value God’s people of all races and nationalities or Americans specifically?” or, “Do I love the ‘enemies’ of America who live on the other side of the world and want them to know Jesus?” These questions can put us at odds with our national identity because they push us to value God’s kingdom and values more than America’s rule and reign.
How much comfort are you willing to sacrifice for others? Through our loving service—especially to those who disagree with us—God can transform the world. We only have to look to Jesus for an example because he didn’t seek to transform the world through the political structures of his day. He sacrificed himself and practiced what he preached by loving his neighbors and his enemies. The world has been changed by it ever since.
God wants to work through you to transform the world, but it’s going to take some self-sacrifice, as real love always does. Even though this idea is counter to both our human and American identities, it places us directly in line with the way Jesus sacrificed, served, and gave hope to the world. To follow his example, we may have to hold onto our Christian identity more tightly than our American identity.