[Note: This note is an answer to a sermon, “Patriotism Is Not Enough” . All thoughts included herein are those of the author.]
Earlier this evening I read a sermon  that had been given in New England some months ago called “Patriotism Is Not Enough.” There are some points in the sermon that are plain incorrect, and they spring from an approach that I believe is harmful to actually preparing us for our future as rulers in God’s kingdom. All too often those who want to consider themselves Christians want to keep their hands clean from any of the difficult issues in this world. People do not vote, a civic duty, because it means voting for the lesser of evils and they want to keep their hands clean. And so dishonest and unprincipled men abound because we refuse to do what is within our power to arrest the decline of our people. This bothers me, because it makes us accomplices to the moral decay of our country. If we are patriotic citizens, it should bother us that our society is so corrupt. We should grieve over our nation’s sins, not try to hide away from our responsibilities to speak out against them and to act against the spread of evil however we can. After all, God’s prophets rose up early and delivered the message of conditional doom to their fallen societies. If those nations would turn from their wicked ways, God would restore them to His grace (at least until they crossed the path of no return), but if they persisted in sin God would bring their nation to destruction because of their wicked ways.
Is this the message we preach? If this the mindset we have? Are we patriotic enough citizens of our countries to mourn the death of the unborn? Do we lament hearing stories about abuse and perversion being enabled by corrupt authority figures? Do we speak out against injustice and corruption wherever it may be found? Or do we pull our coat a little tighter in the face of the incoming storm, glad that we have an escape route (at least in our minds) but not interested at all in both warning our society of its doom if it continues on its path but also pointing out that there is the chance of restoration to God’s blessings and favor if they will turn from their wicked way.
If the United States (to give an example) heeded the warnings of a prophet like Jonah, what could they do to avoid destruction? We know from 2 Kings 14:25 and the book of Jonah that Jonah was a patriotic Israelite. His resistance to preaching to Ninevah was in part because he knew that Israel would be judged, and therefore strongly suspected (see Jonah 4:2) that God would be overly merciful, when he wanted a harsh judgment to come. But God was, and is, willing to forgive a nation willing to repent. I strongly suspect that America (and the rest of the world) is not willing to repent, but they have to have the chance. Who is going to give them a warning message, not as a prophet of doom glorying in the death and misery of others, but genuinely seeking their restoration so much that it can’t help but be seen in their message and how they give it. Who is going to do this, even if nobody listen?
There is a fundamental problem with prophecy, especially when we try to set dates and times. And that is that prophecy is conditional. It depends on the response of the hearer. In Jonah, the people of Ninevah repented of their wicked ways and their doom was averted. Of course, a later generation was given a similar message of judgment from the prophet Nahum and they did not repent, and their city was so thoroughly destroyed that for centuries people thought that the Assyrians didn’t exist and therefore the Bible was a lie. That is how thoroughly their civilization was wiped off the face of the earth, until an archeologist found Ninevah and realized that this great city was no myth but the genuine article. Jonah’s prophecy came true, but much later. The same was true of Micah’s prophecy about Jerusalem. It came true over 100 years after he gave it, once there was a wicked society facing judgment that hardened their hearts against God’s warning.
We cannot escape responsibility. If we have been appointed as watchmen to look out for the well being of our cities and towns and nations, and we fail to give a warning to our people that their wickedness will lead to destruction, the blood of the guilty will be on our heads because no warning was given. We can’t shuffle our feet and shirk that responsibility, because if God has given us a task, He expects us to do it. We can’t be pietists, letting God do all the work while we try to huddle as quietly as possible and live totally inconspicuously, hoping that no one will notice us or criticize us because we don’t want to be burdened with the difficult tasks required of being godly leaders-in-training in an ungodly world.
Let us make an additional comment. If we are American citizens, we must know the accurate truths about our nation’s founding. We celebrate our nation’s Declaration of Independence on July 4, in honor of our nation declaring its independence in the summer of 1776. But we forget, at our peril, that our nation was in a shooting war from April 19, 1775, over a year earlier, in Lexington and Concord, Massachusetts. Our nation was engaged in a shooting war with our colonial “master” for over a year before we took the step of declaring independence. It was not our declaration that provoked Great Britain’s army to attack us. It was instead over a year of bitter fighting that finally provoked our people to break the ties with our colonial ruler. Our nation’s founders, by and large, were reluctant rebels. Certainly, some of those in places like Boston or Virginia were hotheads stirring for rebellion for a long time (in the case of Virginia, debt seemingly had a lot to do with encouraging rebellion, as the most prominent rebels were those in the most debt to London merchants). Many of our nation’s founders were from places like Pennsylvania, though, and did not rebel until they realized that Great Britain was not willing to deal honorably with them, but rather treat all of them as rebels, no matter how just their complaints or how moderate their tone.
We ought to therefore remember that our nation’s founders, many of whom had a deep and profound interest in the Bible and its application to life and civil law, far more than many pietists today, took their responsibilities seriously. For that reason we honor them, not because they were perfect but because they were led by God to act according to His will in ways they did not entirely understand. And the same may be true of us also, if we are able to accept the responsibilities that come from knowing God’s laws and ways and desiring to see them enforced. For who knows what leaders God is training and raising for such a time as this, and we will never know if we are prisoners to our pietism, desiring to wash our hands of any and all service in our fallen world.