Does the Flag Belong in Church?

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If you live in the United States, chances are the American flag is on display in the auditorium at your church. But modern America is far from godly. Should a church honor the symbol of such a culture? Does the American flag belong on the church platform?

Good question. Answer: it depends.

It is not difficult to see why American Christians long assume da close connection between love for God and love for country.

When we visit historic monuments or peruse the United States’ founding documents, we find unabashed references to God, Christ, biblical ethics, and divine oversight of human affairs. Fresh on the heels of the Great Awakening, the founders of the USA understood that the State answers to God just as its citizens do. It is not difficult to see why American Christians long assume da close connection between love for God and love for country.

But historically politics and godliness are often at odds, and America is proving to be no exception. With the country deeply divided in its worldviews and a trend toward ignoring and opposing our biblical foundations, reconciling devotion to country with devotion to God is increasingly difficult. Our laws sanction infanticide, our schools deny the Creator’s existence, and much of our prevailing culture celebrates the very things God forbids and punishes. Such tragedy makes us rethink what message we are sending when churches display patriotic symbols like the flag.

These troubling trends drive us back to the bedrock of Christian faith and practice: God’s holy Word. We can’t read the life and prophecies of Daniel, the thundering preaching and glorious promises of the prophets, or early church history in Acts without seeing that God sets up and takes down leaders and nations, and establishes their boundaries and seasons. He governs this way so that men might seek Him before it is too late.

Man’s rescue has never depended on human government or cultural heritage, not even in America. Politics of any stripe cannot save us. Created in God’s image yet hopeless rebels against God, we find the risen Christ to be the only deliverance from our deadly sin plague. In God we trust, not America. He is America’s only hope.

The flag stands on our platform to express gratitude for God’s goodness to our nation and to remind our congregation about our nation’s accountability to Him as Judge and Savior.

Our church still displays the American flag, not to equate “the American way” with the gospel, but as a reminder. The congregation includes veterans of World War II and other national conflicts. We want to be sensitive to the high cost these brothers and sisters in Christ have paid to uphold the freedom to worship and other worthy ideals. The flag stands on our platform to express gratitude for God’s goodness to our nation and to remind our congregation about our nation’s accountability to Him as Judge and Savior.

An important question to ask is, does displaying the American flag on the platform take our focus off God? It doesn’t necessarily, but each church must make its own choice how to handle this issue, never forgetting that we are a nation by God’s grace, not by man’s power (Daniel 4:17).

Drew Conley is the senior pastor of Hampton Park Baptist Church in Greenville, South Carolina, where he has served as head pastor for nine years. He and his wife, Mary Ellen, have two sons.

Answers Magazine

January – March 2014

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