Make America Great Again….the Jesus Way
Make America great again. That’s the statement that got Donald Trump elected by so many Evangelical Christians. But what does that statement really mean? Who defines what makes America great? Coming from a conservative, Evangelical background I understand what that particular part of the Church means by making America great but is it really a legitimate idea?
As I listen to my progressive Christian brothers and sisters I see that they have a different idea of what would make America great. These differing ideas have created a very wide chasm within the American Church.
This blog is not going to delve into the nuances of the politics of this division. Rather, I want to look at what Jesus tells us greatness is. If any of us want America to be great, then we have to look to someone who knows what greatness truly is….and it’s not what we think it is.
The disciples of Jesus wanted to be great. So much so that they were arguing about it one day amongst themselves. Each of them wanted to be great. In their mind, as with most of us, greatness was defined as a position of power, prestige, honor and fame.
To make America great again means that America is not great now. What time period shall we go back to to define America as great? In every time period in American history there have been situations in which America engaged in that were not godly or Christlike. A large percentage of my fellow Christians believe that America was established as a Christian nation. I used to believe that but I don’t any longer, mainly because I don’t believe that a business or a nation can be Christian. Only people can be Christians. I do believe that America was heavily influenced by Christian principles but I also know that throughout our history we have acted very unChristlike as well.
So, how do we make America great again? I have an answer but it will not go well with most American Christians, especially those of a conservative, fundamental, evangelical background. The reason for that is that many in this stream are very nationalistic in their Christianity. It’s God, family, guns and glory. I am not judging or condemning them. I just know that this style of Christianity will not work if we are to be truly kingdom minded people.
Before I continue, let me say that I love my country. I am thankful that God allowed me to be born in this great nation. At one time I was very nationalistic in my Christianity as well. I believed that we had to take America back for God. However, I no longer see things like that because Jesus is much bigger than America. Regardless of what most end time preachers think, America is not on the forefront of God’s mind when it comes to the world…..the world is at the forefront of God’s mind.
With that said, let’s take a look at three places where Jesus talks about greatness.
The first is in Matthew 18. The disciples of Jesus want to know who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. It’s interesting that Jesus doesn’t rebuke them for this question, nor does he counter the question by telling them it’s wrong to want to be great. He simply redefines greatness by kingdom standards and not worldly standards.
Jesus’ idea of greatness was to become like a little child. Jesus said that we must take the lowly position of a child in order to be great. Can American’s do that? Can we stop being so egotistical and haughty? Can we stop thinking that we are the best and humble ourselves as little children?
We can make America great by becoming like little children.
The second place where Jesus talks about greatness is in Matthew 20. In this teaching, the mother of two of his disciples request a seat of honor for both of her boys. When the other 10 hear of this they became upset because they didn’t want to be outdone. They wanted a seat of honor as well.
Jesus instructed them that the Gentiles (the non-Jewish people) lord their authority over people. Jesus didn’t want his disciples to be like that. Again, he didn’t rebuke them for wanting to be great. He just redirected their ideas of greatness. He instructed them (and us) that if we want to be great then we must become a servant.
Can Americans learn to serve others? Can we learn to put others needs before our own? Can we learn to stop looking down our noses at people and just serve them? Jesus did, and if we want to be great, then we must as well.
Can America, as a nation, learn to serve other nations instead of policing them? Can we serve other nations instead of bullying them with our economics and our military might?
We can make America great by serving others.
Lastly, in Matthew 23 Jesus warns his disciples about doing stuff for the sake of people admiring them. He even goes on to instruct them that they are not to get caught up in using titles. He tells them that the greatest among them must be the servant of all. Again, there is not correction about wanting to be great, just the Kingdom perception of greatness.
So, we have Jesus on two separate occasions telling his followers to be servants. That is what greatness means . . . the ability to humble yourself to serve others.
Somehow I don’t think that most of our ideas of making America great again is by serving people. As stated earlier, I am not interested in debating politics here as much as I am wanting us to really think about what we are saying.
Do I want my country to follow God. Yes, I sure do. However, I don’t want to run roughshod over those folks that have no interest in serving God. I want to serve them. I don’t want to force God down their thoughts.
Do I want my country safe from terrorists. Yes, I sure do. But I don’t want to kill innocent civilians in the process. Somehow that doesn’t sound great to me.
Do I want all people treated fairly? Yes, I sure do. This starts by being willing to serve anyone regardless of whether we agree or not.
So, for America to be great according to God’s standards then we must be willing to humble ourselves as children, serve others and help them become great themselves.