Being a Christ-follower means that I recognize His sovereignty and trust His faithfulness – my future is safe with Him; being an American citizen means that I love my country and grieve the seriousness of our national condition – spiritually, most of all. I will bring the two worlds together as best I can for as long as I can, but when the final analysis is made, my status as a Christian is the truly solid standing.
God and country have been connected for so long in the American mind that dissolving that union is unthinkable to most of us. And I, for one, hope that it may never be so. But history reminds me that great Christians of other times have seen their nations depart from godly moorings – this is not a new thing. And they faced the increasing darkness with solid faith and unrelenting optimism.
I’m reminded of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, one of my Christian heroes, who believed firmly in “the future” all the while Nazism swept his beloved Germany. He refused to give in to despair and commit mental suicide. He believed even in the possibility of his future marriage to his young fiancee, Maria. He wrote to her that their marriage must be a “‘yes'” to God’s earth'” – in other words, an affirmation that God expects us to live the lives He has granted us at this time. The future is His domain, not ours.
“Our marriage must be a “yes” to God’s earth. It must strengthen our resolve to do and accomplish something on earth. I fear that Christians who venture to stand on earth on only one leg will stand in Heaven on only one leg too.” (Love Letters from Cell 92, Abingdon Press, 1995)
Bonhoeffer didn’t marry Maria. He was executed on April 9, 1945, just a few days before the fall of the Third Reich. God’s plan and purpose took a different route than what he hoped. But he was not wrong in his approach to life, even from a cell in Berlin. He was right to believe in the future. He was right to stand up for the oppressed. He was right to champion truth. He was right to commit his efforts to affect change in his country. And he did that, through his preaching, writing and resistance work, down to his last hour. And when his hope in his country was finally extinguished, his trust in the sovereignty of God took over and carried him into the next world where all is right and just.
It might do us well to to embrace his philosophy – love life, believe in the future, fight for the real values of your country and above it all, trust in the overarching supremecy of God who is a mighty Fortress. That means we can look at today and tomorrow with a positive lift to the countenance and a song in the soul. And that’s what I intend to do. I hope my fellow citizens will do the same.