Jesus Christ is not an American. Though He gave His life for others, He didn’t die as a result of an act of terrorism against the United States. Neither did He die as a valiant soldier fighting for American freedom. Should we honor heroes who have paid this ultimate sacrifice? Absolutely. Yet, when believers gather themselves together this Lord’s Day, Christ alone should be the object of our worship. I was out of town last Independence Day and visited a church. I was dismayed to witness the congregation standing to pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America. It didn’t end there. The majority of the hymns were patriotic anthems, including the Star Spangled Banner. Now I’m as patriotic as the next guy, probably more so having read and studied much about the founding of our country. But in the meeting of the church our allegiance should be pledged to Him alone (actually isn’t that true all of the time? …but that’s another can of worms). The 1689 London Baptist Confession of Faith, chapter 22, paragraph 1 declares:
The light of nature shows that there is a God, who has lordship and sovereignty over all; is just, good and does good to all; and is therefore to be feared, loved, praised, called upon, trusted in, and served, with all the heart and all the soul, and with all the might.(1) But the acceptable way of worshipping the true God, is instituted by himself,(2) and so limited by his own revealed will, that he may not be worshipped according to the imagination and devices of men, nor the suggestions of Satan, under any visible representations, or any other way not prescribed in the Holy Scriptures.(3)
So, do we see anywhere in the scriptures patriotic allegiances to nations or flags prescribed for worship to our creator? I’ve not found such references. In fact, paragraph 2 of the same chapter goes on to declare:
Religious worship is to be given to God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and to him alone;(4) not to angels, saints, or any other creatures;(5) and since the fall, not without a mediator,(6) nor in the mediation of any other but Christ alone.(7)
So then, we see explicitly that the triune God (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) is the only object of our worship. By the way, the Baptist confession is not an inspired text. But the points that it makes are backed up with numerous scripture references.
For just the two paragraphs quoted above, the following scripture texts are offered:1 Jer. 10:7; Mark 12:33
2 Deut. 12:32
3 Exod. 20:4-6
4 Matt. 4:9,10; John 6:23; Matt. 28:19
5 Rom. 1:25; Col. 2:18; Rev. 19:10
6 John 14:6
7 1 Tim. 2:5
So what is to be discussed or taught on the Lord’s Day? Scripture itself gives us the answer.
1 Corinthians 2:1–2 (ESV)
1 And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. 2 For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.
Acts 20:26–27 (ESV)
26 Therefore I testify to you this day that I am innocent of the blood of all of you, 27 for I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole counsel of God.
So then, the whole counsel of God, which is the Gospel of Jesus Christ is what should be proclaimed from the pulpit.
Just to avoid any misunderstanding, let me state this. I do not think that a church has violated these principles simply by mentioning the events of September 11, 2001 during the service. However, if these things are mentioned, great care should be taken on how they are proclaimed. Ask yourself a few pertinent questions. Is Christ glorified in what is being said? Are the things being said distracting in any way from the message of Jesus Christ and the glorious Gospel of grace? I believe that these events can be discussed in a God honoring way in the meeting of the church. A point could be made that we live in a fallen world and that sin brought about this catastrophe. While “innocent” people were killed, in reality none of us are innocent. We all deserve to die deaths like this and die an eternity in hell. But for the grace of God we will. Luke 13 gives us a very good picture of September 11.
Luke 13:1–5 (ESV)
1 There were some present at that very time who told him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. 2 And he answered them, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans, because they suffered in this way? 3 No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. 4 Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them: do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others who lived in Jerusalem? 5 No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.”
So then, evaluate your church this Lord’s Day. You will hear one of four things concerning September 11, 2001.
1) You will hear a rah, rah pep rally for USA with possibly a somber remembrance for lives lost and perhaps patriotic song accompaniment.
2) You’ll hear an appropriate mention of the events declaring the depravity of man and the greatness of our God who is able to save not only wicked Muslim terrorists, but wicked “innocent” bystanders as well.
3) Or you will hear nothing concerning September 11, 2001. You will hear, as you do week after week, a faithful pastor declaring the whole counsel of God, delivering spiritual nourishment to the congregation with which he has been entrusted.
4) It’s also possible that you are in one of the many modern pop culture churches where you don’t typically hear the gospel, and you don’t hear a word about September 11 either.
Only points two and three above are valid messages you should be hearing in church. Will your church pass the test? I’m concerned that far too many will fail miserably. Personally I’m looking forward to hearing my pastor faithfully proclaim the Gospel as he always does.