Every culture expresses values.
The Swiss value punctuality as evidenced by their timepieces. They take their watches so seriously they mandate by law what watches can bear the mark “Swiss made.” On the other hand, Filipinos operate according to “Filipino Time.” Time in the Philippines has been so casual the Filipino government passed legislation in 2013 requiring its citizens to synchronize all clocks in the country.
Today, Tuesday, November 6, Americans of every persuasion, ethnicity, socio-economic status, and education level will head to the polls to cast votes for would be school board members, U.S. senators, and every office in between. It is a great American value, being able to choose our own leaders. I hope all my American readers will exercise their right to vote.
While there are no state or federal laws mandating a citizen vote, voting is the most influential way average citizens insert their convictions, opinions, and preferences into the American way of life.
But how should Christians protect and promote the American way of life? In a previous Musing, I wrote loyalty to heaven and country need not be diametrically opposed; both can exist simultaneously. But what happens when conflict occurs at the intersection of American values and Christian values?
Here are three suggested principles that will require your thoughtful deliberation to make cultural application.
Where American values are Christian values, work to maintain them.
Americans believe no one is above the law. Elected officials must obey traffic laws as must every citizen. Building codes cannot be usurped by the rich and powerful while the working man must abide them. Courtrooms must give the same treatment to the no-name defendant as it does to the son who bears an honored family name.
Before it was an American value, parallel treatment of people has been a Bible value. Text after text demands blind justice and fairness to all (for example, Deuteronomy 16:18-20; Proverbs 17:15, 18:5; James 2). Maintaining these values honors heaven. American or not, righteous judgment is the responsibility of all earth’s inhabitants.
American values that originate with Christian values deserve our efforts to hold them in place in our American culture. Normally, holding them in place occurs as the ballot box or in public debate. On occasion, holding these American / Christian values may require the sacrifice of our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor.
Where American values are not Christian values, hold them loosely.
Some American values, while precious to us and which we hope to pass to our descendants, do not have a shared identity as a Christian value. That means you cannot identify a corresponding Bible truth that demands upholding the ideal. Here is where things get sticky.
For example, consider the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution, “the right to bear arms.” (In full disclosure, I am a gun owner and have been since Brenda and I first got married. I acquired my first gun for protection, a 9mm handgun recommended to me by my pastor because of the location of our staff housing. Yes, there’s a story there for another time).
The right to own a firearm is an American value. It is not a Christian value. Millions of Christians worldwide live in countries where it is illegal to own a firearm of any kind. I want to be clear, for them to possess a firearm is against the law in their countries, and therefore, to possess a firearm in those countries is dishonoring to heaven.
Heaven gives to us the right to self-defense. Further, heaven mandates we protect the vulnerable, the oppressed, and the innocent against the wicked (Romans 14). However, you will be hard pressed to find a right to certain methods of self-defense. The Bible doesn’t say all humans have God’s decree to own a sword or a SIG Sauer P229 Elite.
The right to bear arms is an example of an American value, an American value I love and exercise. But this American value is not a Christian value. I reject the phrase, “I'll give you my gun when you pry it from my cold, dead hands.” Now, if you mean when I am defending my family against your evil, yes; but not when the duly authorized government legislates against its ownership.
American values that are not first Christian values should be enjoyed and taken advantage of to the full extent of our citizenship, but these are not values to die for or to lose your Christian identity over.
Where Christian values are not American values, be willing to lose your life for them.
Christian values cost first century Christians and the Apostles their lives. Across the globe in 2018, Christians lose their lives every day because of their loyalty to Jesus over loyalty to state and to national values (most recently, see Cameroon, China, and Pakistan).
Like many other observers of our cultural direction, I believe pressure on Christians to abandon Christian values for new American values is building. Demands for inclusivity that mitigate against the preaching of the gospel of Jesus Christ already appear in some pockets of the country. To declare the exclusive superiority of Jesus Christ to all other religions may put Christians in vulnerable, even life-threating situations.
Like the three friends in ancient Babylon or Stephen in Jerusalem, we cannot abide American values that oppose Christian values even if the cost is our lives. We rest comfortably to live is Christ and to die is gain. If you’ve read this far, thank you.
My purpose is not to incite you, but to ask you to think about your loyalty to God and country. While I maintain it is possible to be loyal to both, I also maintain we are loyal to God first and maybe only, if necessary.
As always I welcome your feedback and any suggestions you might have for an upcoming Lunchtime Musing.