As Christians, it is crucial for us to recognize that the flag of our nation—or any other nation—must be subservient to the cross of Christ. This is especially true at times when the cross is in opposition to the flag.
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Transcript: Welcome to Five Minutes With Pastor Lutzer. I’m so glad that you joined us today, as once again we have a discussion of Christians, politics, and the cross. I don’t need to tell you about how important this discussion is, especially as we see the intersection of politics, Christianity, values, and so forth.
One day—you remember the story in the New Testament, it’s actually in the 22nd chapter of the book of Matthew—the Pharisees come to Jesus. And they say, “Should we pay tribute to Caesar or not?” It was a trick question. If He said yes, then of course the Jews would be angry with Him. If He said no, He could actually be turned in to the Roman authorities and be judged as one who was causing an insurrection against Rome. Jesus wisely asked for a coin, and He saw on it the inscription of Caesar; and Jesus said, “Render unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s, and unto God, that which is God’s.”
Well, when you study 2,000 years of church history, you know that most of that history has to do with a conflict of church and state. I’m laying it out today as the conflict between the flag and the cross. There are three ways that you can look at the flag and the cross. One way is to say that the flag should be above the cross. That’s what happened in Nazi Germany, when many Christians vowed to the authority of the state—to the authority of Nazism. And their allegiance and their commitment was greater to the state—to their flag—than it was to the cross. That’s tragic.
Now, let’s flip the tube. The other way to view it is to see that the cross of Jesus Christ must be above the flag. And of course, that’s exactly where we as Christians should be. The apostle Paul stressed that our citizenship is in heaven. And as we think about the issues that are coming to pass in our culture, it is so important for us to realize that our ultimate allegiance is to the cross and not the flag.
Now, I was born in Canada, but I’ve always respected the American flag. And since I’ve become an American, I want you to know that I hold the flag of the United States of America with great respect; but at the same time, I recognize that it has to be subservient to the cross of Jesus Christ. The flag can never be above the cross.
Well, there’s a third way to look at it, and that is to say that there are times when the cross must be against the flag. Now we’re talking, of course, of matters of conscience. And that’s exactly what happened in the early church. In the early church, what you find is that the apostles said “We have to obey God rather than man.” And they were willing to take the consequences. For them, it was being beaten, but they understood the importance of saying there are times when the cross of Jesus Christ must go against culture. It must go against the flag, no matter what state we might be in; because our ultimate allegiance, even though it may cost us much, is to the cross of Jesus Christ. And that’s of course where we should be today as Christians.
It is so important for us to recognize that the cross and the flag have been in conflict. Even in the Old Testament, you see the story, remember, of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, who are told that they must bow before the image because the state was becoming God and infringing on their consciences. And they said with God and infringing on their consciences. And they said with confidence, “We will not bow.”
So let’s remember that no matter where we are politically, the cross of Jesus Christ must always be above the flag. Join us next time as we continue to talk about Christians, politics, and the cross, to help us think through those issues that are of most importance. But as for today, go with God.