In Singapore, we celebrate National Day on 9 August; this is a day which commemorates our country gaining independence on 9 August 1965. Every year on National Day, there will be a televised parade, performances, singing of the National Anthem, and reciting the pledge. It is a day to show our patriotism, and all the proceedings help us to feel a greater sense of national pride. I believe most people would have a sense of pride for their country of birth, and there are a number of contributing factors towards such affection, which the Bible does describe as well.
The success of any country depends heavily on the quality of the sitting government. Hence, in democratic countries, we take our general elections seriously, because we are essentially voting for the country’s future. The recent collapse of Sri Lanka shows us the importance of a having a good government in power. As Singaporeans, we are proud to have a government that has been able to lead our country into prosperity, since the time of the late Lee Kuan Yew, who transformed Singapore from a third world country into a first world country.
Despite the importance of the government, we know that no government in this world is perfect. Furthermore, there are even governments that institute laws which hinder Christianity. Nevertheless, God still calls us to submit to the government. God Himself is the one who sets up governments, because they exist for the citizen’s benefit (Romans 13:1-7). Hence, we should submit, and honour those in power. Additionally, we should pray for the government, that they can lead the country well, and provide peace within the nation, because that is profitable for the gospel’s sake (1 Timothy 2:1-4).
People form a big part of national identity. Thailand is famous for being the “land of a thousand smiles,” a reference to its citizens’ hospitality and cheerful greetings. The Japanese are famous for being polite and courteous. In Singapore, we are perhaps proud that we have hard-working and honest citizens. But no matter which country we come from, we will always be proud of our fellow-citizens, with whom we have a shared identity. Our shared identity includes a shared language, culture, ideals and heritage. Our shared identity differentiates us from people from different nations.
As much as every nation has different cultural values, every nation would have its share of cultural problems also. When we reflect on God’s standard, we realize that not every practice in our culture may be acceptable to God, just as the ancient Cretans, who were described to be “liars, evil beasts, slow bellies” (Titus 1:12-13). As Christians, we have learnt godly values and habits from the Scriptures (2 Timothy 3:16-17). While we appreciate the valuable parts of our culture, we also need to educate against socially acceptable misbehaviour (Titus 1:13). More importantly, we need to preach the gospel to our fellow-citizens, as only the gospel can bring salvation (Romans 1:16).
Every country has its own unique territory. Every country protects its territory fiercely, because land is such a precious resource. The war between Russia and Ukraine over territory illustrates this point. Even in Singapore, despite the scarcity of land and natural beauty, we can still be proud of our territory. We can be proud of the architectural marvels have been constructed in sites like the Esplanade and Gardens by the Bay.
Whatever land that the country owns is a blessing from God. Hence, we ought to be environmentally responsible and not be wasteful or destructive. Also, we pray that our nation can follow after God’s righteousness (Proverbs 14:34). In times past, God had set up and torn down kingdoms who did not follow after His will (Job 12:23; Daniel 4:32). Instead, we hope that God can continue to bless our nation.
GOD’S HOLY NATION
While we need to submit to our nation’s government, we need to realize that the highest authority in this universe is God. He alone rules over all the kingdoms of this world (Daniel 4:17). The day we were baptized, we submitted ourselves to Jesus as our King (Romans 6:22). If there were ever any question on who we should submit to, it must always be God first (Acts 5:29). Are our lives lived in submission to God’s will? Are our heart’s love and affection towards our Lord Jesus?
While we have a special affinity with our fellow citizens in our nation, we have an even greater connection to our brothers and sister in Christ. We may have once been strangers, but we have become fellow-citizens in God’s kingdom, and we have become family! (Ephesians 2:19). This special connection is possible because of Jesus (Acts 20:28). Jesus Himself loves His spiritual family (Matthew 12:48-50). Do we love our fellow Christians? Do we help and support one another in the faith?
While we may enjoy a beautiful home here on earth, we know that no place on earth can ever compare to the beauty of Heaven. No physical imagery can adequately describe the beauty of that glorious place (Revelation 21:4, 9-27). God’s faithful people have always looked forward to the heavenly city (Hebrews 11:16). They may not have seen it with their earthly eyes, but with the eyes of faith, they knew that Heaven was reserved and waiting for them (Hebrews 11:13). Do we look forward to our heavenly home? Do we do whatever it takes to get there?
While we may take the time to celebrate our nation’s success, let us not forget to celebrate, through our lives of servitude, God’s holy nation. As Christians, we bow down before the highest power: God. We congregate with the most precious people: Christians. We long for the greatest territory: Heaven.
“But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ” (Philippians 3:20 ESV).