Is God Republican or Democrat?

Before the pastor took the pulpit, a striking video with the song “America the Beautiful” filled the sanctuary’s giant screens. As the glorious soprano voice sang the patriotic song, various shots of America’s vast landscape and well-known landmarks appeared, together with pictures of our beautifully diverse population. One congregant rose, then another, and before the first chorus reached its climax, the entire congregation stood in honor of our great nation.

Tears filled my eyes. My mind took me back to Sept. 5, 2005 – the day I stood in the Immigration and Naturalization Service office in downtown Atlanta, joining a group of internationals to take the oath and become an American citizen. With gratitude and humbled by the honor, I swore to defend and abide by the laws of the land and the American constitution.

“Is God Republican or Democrat?”

When the words popped on the screen, I held my breath. A sober silence fell on the congregation as people anticipated the preacher’s next words.

“He’s a brave man,” I thought to myself. The subject is as daring as it is controversial.

Later on, as I talked to Kennesaw First Baptist church’s senior pastor Dr. Perry Fowler, he said that he did not plan the sermon’s timing. He preaches through the books of the Bible, and last weekend’s sermon just “happened” to land on the text where Jesus dissipated any doubts concerning God and government. He delivered the sermon when not only our nation but also our churches struggle to reconcile beliefs, politics and social issues.

As Fowler shared the passage in the Gospel of Mark, where Jesus is cornered by two “political” parties concerning paying taxes, the master’s answer dissipates any doubts the modern believer may have.

“Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s; and to God the things that are God’s.”

In Fowler’s brilliant interpretation, echoing the words of renowned pastor and best-selling author Dr. Tony Evans: “Jesus did not come to take sides. He came to take over.”

I attend a culturally diverse church where white and Black Americans and immigrants from over 90 countries across the globe share the same love for God and his kingdom.

Every election year, however, there seems to be a tension among God’s people that mirrors the strain that Jesus found in Judea when the two political parties fought for the Jews’ devotion. And the master’s answer should make every believer ponder about his or her ultimate allegiance.

Jesus’ loyalty was not to the Herodians, nor the Pharisees. His allegiance was to God, and his goal was to promote God’s agenda first and foremost. He did not encourage rebellion against the government. Much to the contrary, Jesus offered an insulting concept to the Pharisees when he said that they must pay their taxes to Caesar. He did not tell the people they should rebel against the law of the land, something the Pharisees would have undoubtedly approved. Instead, Jesus said they should obey the law while never forgetting their allegiance to God.

Let that thought sink in.

At a time of confusion and division in our country, and as we witness the astounding promotion of chaos and lawlessness, every person who believes in a supreme and orderly God should take a stand, regardless of religion, political preference or race.

Unfortunately, because society’s fabric is weaved with sinful human beings, there will always be inequality, and prejudice will never completely die. And yes, we must take a firm stand against every bit of discrimination and seek justice to those who use their position of power to harm innocent people. But as someone born and raised in a country where political and insidious agendas use people’s weaknesses to promote destructive behavior, I cannot be silent any longer. I must take a stand.

And I do so on this Independence Day: May our allegiance be to God and his laws first. Yes, prejudice is evil. But so is lawlessness. So is hate. Let God’s people courageously stand for these truths, regardless of their race or political convictions.

Finally, let the words of 19th-century poet Katherine Lee Bates, which inspired the hymn composed by organist and choirmaster Samuel A. Ward, echo in our hearts this 4th of July:

“O beautiful for Pilgrim feet, whose stern impassioned stress

“A thoroughfare for freedom beat, across the wilderness

“America, America, God mend thine every flaw

“Confirm thy soul in self-control, Thy liberty in law”

Patricia Holbrook is a columnist, author, blogger and international speaker. Her newly published Bible Study – “Twelve Inches” – is now available on her website, www.soaringwithHim.com. For speaking engagements and comments, email pholbrook@soaringwithHim.com.

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