Happy Independence Day to our American users!

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For many American Christians, the Independence Day/Fourth of July holiday begs a question: “What is the relationship between patriotism and following Christ?”

This isn’t a question only American Christians ponder. There’s no doubt that God gives each individual a heritage and an ethnicity. Rooted in human nature is a rich sense of belonging to a particular place. Jesus himself took on flesh in a particular place, first in Bethlehem and then in Nazareth of Galilee. Luke writes “When [Joseph, Mary, and Jesus] finished everything required by God in the Law, they returned to Galilee and their own town, Nazareth” (Luke 2:39, Message).

Supporting one’s country with a healthy sense of national pride is in no way antithetical to the Gospel, unless patriotism becomes idolatrous. But our national pride takes its proper place when we, as Charles Haddon Spurgeon wrote, let “Christ…take from us all inclination or power to boast of our national prestige. To me, it is prestige enough to be a Christian–to bear the cross Christ gives me to carry and to follow in the footsteps of the great Crossbearer.”

Even for those countries that enjoy extensive personal freedom—Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness in Thomas Jefferson’s 1776 Declaration of Independence language—there are always societal norms that are contrary to the Gospel. The greater freedom for Christians will always found in the knowledge and love of Christ.

As the Apostle Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 3:17-18, “When God is personally present, a living Spirit, that old, constricting legislation [Jewish law] is recognized as obsolete. We’re free of it! All of us! Nothing between us and God…and so we are transfigured much like the Messiah, our lives gradually becoming brighter and more beautiful as God enters our lives and we become like him.”

Because, fellow Christians, where the Spirit of the Lord is there is freedom.