What would your answer be if I asked you this question: “What is the best country in the world?” If you’re like most other Americans, you would probably automatically answer, “the United States.” Simple, right? Well, what if I were to then ask you, “What do we owe our country?” A little tougher question to answer, huh?
Some people might respond by saying that we owe our country our total and unquestioning support. You’ve probably run into persons like these before – they’re the ones who shout “My country, right or wrong!”, and have bumper stickers on their cars which read, “America, Love It Or Leave It!”
Other people, though, might insist that we owe our country loyalty and support only when we agree with what it does. In other words, if the government tells us to do something which we disagree with, we may disobey the government by ignoring or rebelling against the command. You’ve probably also seen or heard of these kinds of people – they’re the ones who, for example, in the 1960’s, burned their draft cards and made bonfires out of American flags.
So what do we owe our country? How would you answer the question, “What do we owe our country?” I think that we can get at the answer to this question by keeping in mind two main ideas.
First, we must remember that our government has been given the right to rule over us by God. The government receives its authority and legitimacy from God. To put it another way, the government rules over us in the place of God; the government is God’s servant, so to speak. Read what Paul has to say about this in Romans 13:1, 2.
“Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore he who resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment.”
Did you catch that? Paul is saying here that when we disobey the government, we are at the same time disobeying God. Rebelling against the government is the same thing as rebelling against God!
Practically speaking, what does this mean for us? It means that when the government asks us to pay our taxes, we pay them. It means that we must show honor and respect to our elected officials. It means that if the government makes a decision which we disagree with, although we may protest vehemently, in the end, we must peacefully submit to the wishes of the authorities. In short, it means that we owe our country loyalty, support, and obedience, for that is the will and command of God.
However, we must also bear in mind a second main idea: that although it is our Christian duty to obey the government, we are first of all citizens of the Kingdom of Heaven. Our ultimate loyalty is not to the government of the United States, but to God. After all, we are only pilgrims and strangers in this land; our final home is in Heaven.
Thus, we should obey the government at all times, except when it asks or commands us to do something that conflicts with the Law of God and our Christian principles. In that case, we have absolutely no choice but to obey God and disobey the government.
For example, of Congress would pass a law prohibiting us from meeting together and holding worship services, we would simply have no choice but to disobey that law by meeting secretly in homes, schools, or wherever it would be possible to gather together and worship God without being caught.
The Bible, too, provides us with a good example of how Christians may sometimes have to disobey man and government in order to obey God. We are all familiar with the story of Daniel, who disobeyed the law of King Darius which banned all prayer in the country. Daniel ignored that law and prayed anyway, knowing full well that he would be severely punished for doing so.
How then should we answer the question, “What do we owe our country?” We may say that since the government has received its authority from God, we owe it our support and compliance in all things, as long as it does not require us to do anything that violates our Christian beliefs and principles. If, however, we are commanded by the government to act contrary to the Law of God, then it is our Christian calling to disobey the government and obey God.