I can think of no better way to observe this Fourth of July national holiday in the U.S. in this space than in directing you to an excellent piece written by my brilliant brother Keith on their Center for Christian Studies website. He penned it a couple of days ago; I have saved it for today.

The third-century Church Father Origen wrote that Christians are a tremendous blessing to the cities, states, and nations to which they belong. In fact, they do more good for their countries than any other group of people because of the way they live their lives for Christ Jesus. Keith takes those lines, and another couple from Augustine, to give us a compelling argument that the best way to be a patriotic American–or Canadian or Mexican or Russian or Brit–is to be faithful to our Lord Jesus first.

Here are the lines from Origen, straight from Keith’s opening paragraph:

“Indeed, the more pious a man is, the more effective he is in helping the emperors—more so than the soldiers who go out into the lines and kill all the enemy troops that they can” (Contra Celsum VIII.73). It is Christians, Origen says, who “educate the citizens and teach them to be devoted to God, the guardian of their city; and they take those who have lived good lives in the most insignificant cities up to a divine and heavenly city. To them it could be said: You were faithful in a very insignificant city; come also to the great city where ‘God stands in the congregation of the gods and he judges between gods in the midst’ [Ps. 82:1]” (Contra Celsum VIII.74, emphasis mine).

Keith walks us through some biblical passages and reminds us that the idea of dual citizenship for Christians only developed in later centuries, after it became apparent that Jesus’ idea of “soon” is different from ours. However, he writes, “Christians have always understood that allegiance to the heavenly city is primary, and all other allegiances are relativized, insignificant in comparison.”

It’s a short piece–you can read it for yourself in like four minutes. But, like everything Keith writes, each sentence is packed. Deep. Provocative. And helpful for better articulating what we already know. Or should know. I recommend you read the article two or three times and reflect carefully on each paragraph.

I’ll give you one more paragraph here to tease it:

“As for the United States, the two cities should never have been confused in the first place.  But for those who may have failed to maintain this important distinction in the past—when much of American culture was shaped by or at least paid lip service to Christianity—a valuable service has been rendered by our presidential candidates and national politicians over the last few years.  The line between the two cities has never been plainer, as the insignificance of this earthly city is clearly reflected by the intellectual and moral insignificance of its would-be leaders.

Keith and I quibble a bit on the details of how Christians should or should not be involved in the worldly ways and means of the very insignificant city, the politics. But we will always agree on one of his final lines in this article: “The best way to involve ourselves, as Origen reminds us, is to be Christ in our neighborhood.

Here it is. Click on it. Read it. I’d love to hear your thoughts.