Today as I write it is Australia Day. There are thousands out at parks and beaches celebrating what it means to be Australian. There is a sea of green and gold, and the Australian flag is draped everywhere. But I find it hard to get into all this celebrating. I don’t really know why this is. It’s not that I’m a spoil sport or dislike having fun, it’s more that Australianism doesn’t really form a large part of my identity. Growing up I chose Promite over Vegemite. I’ve never owned a ute or gotten into the Ford vs Holden thing. Sometimes in international sport I even hope other countries win for the sake of better competition. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not anti-Australian in any way. I was at the Asian Cup soccer final last year cheering when Australia won. I think it’s that I see myself as more than just Australian.
When I try to reconcile my lack of patriotism with my Christian identity I find the letters of Peter to be helpful. In his first letter to a group of 1st century Christians in a remote part of modern day Turkey, he tells them to remember that their citizenship is in heaven and not the world around them. What he is trying to instil in them is even though they live in a specific place, their home is with God. They may be shaped somewhat by the society around them but ultimately they should be shaped by their identity in God. I think this message is a vital one for all of those who follow Jesus. It raises the question ‘What is shaping you?’
For me part of the struggle I have with Australia Day stems from my desire to be shaped like Jesus. Australia is a beautiful country. Our nation is filled with staggering beauty and amazingly bizarre animals. In general we are a welcoming people and have embraced multi-culturalism. We have positive values of mateship, fairness and desire to see the underdog succeed. I have a freedom that many in our world do not. In so many ways we are fortunate to be Australian. But Australia is not Heaven. All I need to do is turn on the TV and see bad news stories. While Australia is great there are still reports of murder, theft, violence and miscarriages of justice. We live in a great country but it still has its problems. This is part of my struggle. I long to fully experience my heavenly citizenship. I want these bad news stories from our nation to cease. Deep down I know that however great our nation may be, it pales in comparison to heaven. I think I am torn between two places. I think Peter would say that I am longing for home.
It’s good to celebrate the great things that make us Australian. Go for it! Embrace it! But as for me, I continue to struggle to fully embrace the celebration. It isn’t because I think it is bad or wrong but because I’m torn between my national identity and longing for something more. And at the end of the day it is my heavenly identity that wins out.