Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Love of Country

What does it mean to love one's country? Is a Christian obligated to do this? How should we go about it? Now it is clear we are to be subject to the governing authorities, to obey the law and pay taxes (Romans 13:1-7; 1 Peter 2:13-17; Matthew 22:15-22). We are also told there is a place where we must serve God rather than men (Acts 4:19; 5:29; Daniel 3:16-18). There is also a Biblical precedent for rebuking those in authority (2 Samuel 12:1-14; 1 Kings 21:17-29; Matthew 14:1-12). But steering a course between these duties is more complicated.

The Scriptural concept of love is a love that loves, not based on what someone does for us, but even in spite of it (Matthew 5:43-48; Romans 12:9-21; 1 Corinthians 13:4-7). This is the kind of love God has for us (1 John 4:7-11; Romans 5:6-8; Philippians 2:5-11). Now while Scripture commands us to love all people (Matthew 22:34-40; Romans 13:8-10; James 2:8), it also leaves room for special relationships (1 John 4:20,21; Ephesians 5:22-6:9; 1 Peter 3:1-7). The love here is a love based on the relationship, not the person meriting it. While it is not specifically mentioned, patriotism would seem to fall into this category. It is a love of your home because it is your home, not necessarily because it merits it.

This is important. If you love your country because it is your country, you can still see its faults. You can also work to change those faults and do it with love and respect. As G. K. Chesterton points out, the only way to really change something is to love it for itself and not its merit. If you take the attitude that my country can do no wrong, you cannot see the faults in order to change them. But if you jump to the opposite view of only seeing the faults, you can end up wholly hostile and unable to care enough to make positive change. We see both these attitudes reflected today in the United States, and they frequently end up at loggerheads. But if you love your country because it is your country, you can avoid the extremes and appreciate the good aspects of it without ignoring the faults. Also, you can understand and respect the fact that other people love their countries also. There may be some countries that are so oppressive the only loving thing to do is to try to change them. But if you love your country because it is your country, you will be less likely to jump to the conclusion things need to be changed when they do not. It is only the person who loves their country who can see clearly enough to correct its faults with respect.

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