Nearly 30 years ago, the late Christian musician Rich Mullins wrote a powerful song called Land of My Sojourn. I’m reminded of the song’s lyrics every year as we approach Independence Day. Mullins wrote about the beauty and promise of our nation’s ideals, but also about how our nation has often failed to live out those ideals in practice. We yearn for freedom, but we still find ourselves enslaved by the sin and evil in our own hearts and in our communities. We believe in the equality of all men, but not everyone has always benefited equally from the blessings this nation has to offer. The tension between these ideals and our failure to consistently achieve them has been at the heart of the turmoil and violence that our nation has experienced in these past few months.
Perhaps the most poignant lyrics of Mullins’ song are found in the bridge: “Nobody tells you when you get born here how much you’ll come to love it and how you’ll never belong here, so I’ll call you my country, but I’ll be longing for my home.” Mullins expresses the quandary that every follower of Jesus faces: we love our country, but we know that this nation isn’t truly our home. We might celebrate our American citizenship, but we also recognize that we are first and foremost “citizens of heaven” (Philippians 3:20). Our primary allegiance is to Jesus, and our ultimate hope is found in God’s kingdom rather than any kingdoms, nations, or governments of this world.
Because we love our nation, it can be hard for us to remember that it won’t last forever. Every earthly nation will eventually give way to the kingdom of God. His kingdom will outlive every country and government on earth. If that makes us feel a little bit sad, it’s important to remember that God’s kingdom is infinitely better than the United States of America. The values of God’s kingdom are perfect and eternal, and in His kingdom those values will be perfectly realized. There will no longer be a gap between the freedom, hope and equality that we want and the reality of our daily lives.
We are not the first people to live through a national crisis, to face a troubled present and a cloudy future. Even God’s chosen nation, Israel, faced eras of pain and turmoil, often because of its own failure to obey God. In the midst of one of those eras, the prophet Isaiah looked ahead with hope to the day when God would make everything right again. He described the future kingdom of God like this: “On this mountain [Mount Zion] the Lord Almighty will prepare a feast of rich food for all peoples, a banquet of aged wine — the best of meats and the finest of wines. On this mountain he will destroy the shroud that enfolds all peoples, the sheet that covers all nations; he will swallow up death forever. The Sovereign Lord will wipe away the tears from all faces; he will remove the disgrace of his people from all the earth. The Lord has spoken.” (Isaiah 25:6-8). Isaiah painted a word picture of a beautiful feast where people from every race, tribe, and nation would be gathered together to worship God. There would be no violence, oppression, sin, sickness, or death. Every imperfect earthly nation, even the nation of Israel, would one day give way to the perfect kingdom of God.
Isaiah only understood a part of what God was going to do to make His kingdom a reality. He didn’t know yet exactly how God would defeat sin, sickness and death. When God’s Son Jesus arrived, though, we learned the rest of the story. Jesus died and rose again, and in the process He destroyed sin and death itself. Jesus then offered eternal life to everybody who would believe in Him, from every nation, tribe or race. In Jesus’ kingdom, the walls that divide nations and kingdoms will fall down forever, and in their place He will create a perfect kingdom that will never end. In Jesus’ kingdom, there will be more than enough of everything to meet everyone’s needs. There will be no shortage of love, and violence won’t exist. Righteousness and justice will prevail, once and for all, and we will never have a reason to be afraid of each other again. The very best of our world’s kings and presidents can only dream of creating a kingdom like the one that Jesus will one day bring us, but they can never make it a reality. The brightness of Christ’s kingdom will make our Fourth of July fireworks look like cheap plastic nightlights.
And the very good news is that God offers a place in His kingdom to everybody who wants to live there. You don’t have to be rich, famous, or powerful. You only have to know Jesus. To trust in Him is to know that your future is secure. That’s more than a dream; it’s a rock solid promise worth celebrating, both now and forever.