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John Piper: Patriotism Is a 'Good Thing' but 'God Is Our King, Not Man'

fourth of july
A man waves an American flag as he watches a July Fourth parade in the village of Barnstable, Massachusetts July 4, 2014. Barnstable, which is located on Cape Cod in Massachusetts and was first settled in 1639, is celebrating its 375th anniversary in 2014. |

Patriotism can be "a good thing," but it has to come with the recognition that "God is our King, not man," says theologian John Piper.

Piper, who serves as a pastor, theologian, and founder of DesiringGod.org, discussed the question of patriotism in a podcast interview published to the website on Friday.

On the week before Americans celebrate Independence Day, Piper said patriotism can be "a good thing" and cited as biblical justification Paul's Epistle to the Romans.

"Romans 13:1, in calling us to be subject to the powers that wield the sword, implies that in some sense a country identity or a nation state identity has the right to use that sword to defend itself against aggression and, thus, in some sense preserve its right to exist and exist as it exists," said Piper.

"Whatever form your patriotism takes, let it be a deep sense that we are more closely bound to brothers and sisters in Christ in other countries, other cultures than we are to our closest unbelieving compatriot or family member in the fatherland or in the neighborhood."

Piper further emphasized that "God is our King, not man," which means that ultimately God "is our final allegiance, but under that banner it is right to be thankful that God gave us our land freely."

"I am thinking now particularly of America. He gave this to us freely. I didn't deserve to be born here. It wasn't my choice. We don't deserve this place any more than I deserve any other common grace or special grace," continued Piper.

"It is right to be thankful that people paid a high price to preserve our land with its freedoms and its cultural distinctives. And it is right to be thankful that we have all these cultural slippers to put on that we don't want to throw away."

Amid the parades, music, and fireworks, some within American Christianity have pondered aloud to what extent Christians in America should place pride in being American.

Mark Tooley, president of the Institute on Religion & Democracy, wrote in a blog post last month that there is a justifiable concern over expressing pride in one's country.

"Christians should not be proud to be American. They should be grateful and blessed. Thank God for America, pray for America, love America, serve America, implore mercy and divine blessing upon America," wrote Tooley.

"Celebrate and admire what God has achieved through America. Christians of every land should have this determined, appreciative and plaintive attitude about their country."

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