Growing up I was enamored with Superman! (Let's be honest. I still am). And Superman was for truth, justice, and the American way! Superman shaped how I saw America. Superman was the greatest superhero ever. So, if Superman endorsed "The American Way," count me in.
But recently, my fond memories of the phrase, "The American Way," have been challenged. As I've watched the news and scrolled through Twitter, I've begun to ask the question, "What does the phrase 'The American Way' even mean? I am not necessarily trying to make a value judgment about whether or not America was great, is great, or will be great again. Certainly there have been things in our history... like slavery and 'abortion on demand' to grieve over. There are other historical movements like the Great Awakenings and the modern missions movement we can celebrate. But this is beside the point. The first question I'm asking is, "What is 'The American Way'"?
When asked this question, here are some of the answers people share. The characteristics and values that make up the "American Way" are: innovation, individualism, power, capitalism, freedom, "me first." So, now I ask, "If this is the "American Way," is this the "Jesus Way"?
In the Bible, Jesus calls himself the way, the truth, and the life. "The Jesus Way" is exclusive. He is the only way to the Father. Jesus's exclusive claims as our Lord remind us that, as Christians, we are not of this world. We are citizens of another realm.
And as we follow a "Jesus First" policy, we are changed into his likeness. C.S. Lewis put it like this:
Now the whole offer which Christianity makes is this: that we can, if we let God have His way, come to share in the life of Christ. If we do, we shall then be sharing a life which was begotten, not made, which always existed and always will exist. Christ is the Son of God. If we share in this kind of life, we also shall be sons of God. We shall love the Father as He does and the Holy Ghost will arise in us. He came to this world and became a man to spread to other men the kind of life He has — by what I call "good infection." Every Christian is to become a little Christ. The whole purpose of becoming a Christian is simply nothing else.
As we are formed into little Christs, God will use us to shape and form others to walk in his way. This certainly requires taking responsibility. We can—we must!—take responsibility for the way we live and work in our homes, neighborhoods, places of work, and the public square. We must not permit the culture to dictate the way we go about our lives.
Being formed into the image of our Savior is also a powerful way. But the power is not ours. It's the way of the cross, where God demonstrates his power--not through our ingenuity or our political or financial strength--but through our weakness.
One of tools God has used to challenge my thinking about "The American Way" the book, The Jesus Way by Eugene Peterson. Peterson highlights Jesus' way of humility. As Paul writes in Philippians 2:1-7:
So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.
"The Jesus Way" is preeminently a way of humility, compassion, empathy, and serving others. As we celebrate the birth of our nation later this week, many of us will have more time with our close family and friends. Each day, we'll have choices before us. Will we choose a "me first" policy or one that is characterized by humility and servanthood? It is great to be proud of the country we live in. But, this week, let's take pride pride in our new kingdom, the one that surpasses all we experience here.