As Americans, we love our inalienable rights. They make up the American way of life that we cherish so dearly. To speak against them is almost, if not certainly, to speak against America, which would make us, well, un-American.
Yet we know that these rights have their dark side as well. When these rights are pursued along with the individualistic value of self-governance, we can do everything from
aborting killing millions of unborn babies to waging a drone war that is harming killing others. That’s because at the end of the day, our rights, our wealth, our power, our sovereign rule is what matters most. So whatever is expedient in defending and exercising these rights is justified eventually, somehow, someway…
Then there’s Jesus. We love him. At least most of us do. Jesus is especially popular this time of year. His story, especially the cute little baby story we have extrapolated and edited from the Gospels, is a comfort to us.
The promise of salvation Jesus offers soothes our senses and assuages the concerns we have about death as we grow older and begin to realize our own mortality. And so we sing:
Joy to the world, the Lord is come! Let earth receive her King…
But this King doesn’t let us off the hook so easily. He demands that we follow him into his kingdom by denying ourselves and journeying with him to the cross as we carry our own cross (cf. Mk 8:34ff). And Jesus makes no exceptions!
This is where we get hung up and stumble. That is because this call to deny ourselves demands that we put aside our rights and our American way of life. It’s not because the American way of life is inherently all wrong, though it often yields much wrong (as pointed out above). It’s because the American way of life is a way of self-governing (“We the people…”) and following Jesus is about allowing God to reign over us instead.
So we have a choice to make? Yet as long as our American way of life is of more value than the kingdom of God, following Jesus is an impossibility.
Here’s the problem and the reason I am writing this: As I scroll through my Facebook feed, I get the feeling that some, perhaps many, American Christians value their American way of life more than they do kingdom of God.
I hope I’m wrong.