Holy Nationalism

photo by: Michael Browning

The church is the holy nation under the new covenant by faith in Jesus Christ. Therefore, the church should practice holy nationalism. Nationalism is seeking the good and advancement of your "nation" (not in the sense of the modern nation-state but closer to ethnic people group). This is fine for all ethnic people groups. The problem is that all ethnic people groups seek to build a name for themselves (Gen 11:4) like the human people group did before they were separated and scatted by language. When self-exalting sin controls valid nationalistic responsibility then their initiatives seek to advance the good of one nation to the detriment or disregard for the other nations. The self-exalting nation sins by this group-self-centeredness. Nationalism easily goes astray.

American nationalism is commendable. American citizens, Christian and non-Christian, should seek the good and advancement of their nation. The problem for many American Christians is that nationalism has been confused with Christianity under the banner of "God and country." Some argue, "Singing patriotic songs and positioning the American flag in the auditorium shows appropriate gratitude and appreciation for our freedom. It honors our veterans. It's a great tradition. It's a way that we accept the great values of this country."

The problem is that the church gathers as the holy nation of Jesus from every tribe, language, people, and nation. We gather around the cross to show gratitude and appreciation for our freedom from sin, Satan, and death. We honor our veterans, the saints of old who have gone before us and passed on the precious gospel to us. We honor the gospel tradition. We gather to accept the great values of the holy nation. When members of BBC and Christian guests from other churches and lands gather with us around the throne and Lord's Table, we are one people in Christ Jesus. The American Non-Christian is on the outside. The foreign Christian is on the inside. The dividing line and the point of unity is Jesus Christ and Christ alone. Not America, not the American holiday, and not the American flag.

Does holy nationalism avoid self-exaltation and indifference toward other nations? Christians may focus inwardly but that does not advance the good of the holy nation. The good of the holy nation is faith in Christ, repentance from sin flowing into love for God, one another, neighbors, and the nations. Therefore, to advance the good of the holy nation is to exalt God. Holy nationalism blesses other churches who are also part of the holy nation. Holy nationalism gathers the elect who become naturalized as citizens of heaven (Phil 3:20). Holy nationalism grows and matures Christians in loving neighbors for the common good of the earthly nation they inhabit and serve.

Practically, pastors and Christians should teach their members to see their citizenship, nationality, and ethnicity as the heavenly, holy, new covenant community (1 Pet 2:9). Value your holy nationality above your earthly nationality (Phil 3:20). Channel holy nationalism into evangelistic fervor for your neighbors and the nations (1 Pet 2:9-12). Leverage your holy nationality for your host country's common good (Gal 6:10).