The Christian and Nationalism
The nation of Israel began with God's promise to Abraham: "Now the Lord had said unto Abram, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father's house, unto a land that I will shew thee: And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing: And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed" (Genesis 12:1-3). God renewed this promise to Abraham several more times during his lifetime. Then, in Genesis 22:18 God made a more specific promise after the "sacrifice of Isaac" on Mount Moriah. "And in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed; because thou hast obeyed my voice." This was a prophetic promise of the coming of Christ through the seed of Abraham.
The promise to Abraham was twofold. God promised Abraham some real estate in the land of Canaan, and He also promised that he would be a blessing to all families of the earth. Israel had both a national mission and a spiritual mission. Israel, however, was often much more focused with their national mission than their spiritual mission. Bright spots in their history were when they filled their spiritual mission, but those instances usually occurred on an individual basis, such as the account of Ruth the Moabitess.
The Mosaic Law provided for the stranger to become a part of Israel. "One law shall be to him that is homeborn, and unto the stranger that sojourneth among you." (Exodus 12:49). The Law had numerous provisions and directions for Israel to fulfill their spiritual mission.
Israel became a nation in their own right while they sojourned in Egypt and became a nation within a nation. Consequently became a threat to the Egyptians, by whom they were severely persecuted. God saw their affliction and brought them out with "an high hand." They did not need to fight the Egyptians, for God destroyed the Egyptian army in the Red Sea and delivered the Israelites. They had hardly escaped from the Egyptians when they were confronted with Amalek. Moses told Joshua to choose out men and go and fight with Amalek. "And it came to pass, when Moses held up his hand, that Israel prevailed: and when he let down his hand, Amalek prevailed. But Moses' hands were heavy; and they took a stone, and put it under him, and he sat thereon; and Aaron and Hur stayed up his hands, the one on the one side, and the other on the other side; and his hands were steady until the going down of the sun. And Joshua discomfited Amalek and his people with the edge of the sword" (Exodus 17:11-13).
A survey of Israel's history would reveal that sometimes they were commanded to fight their enemies and at other times God fought their battles. A closer look will show us that often their spiritual condition as a nation determined how God chose to deal with them and their enemies.
Under the Old Testament law God ordained capital punishment for violations. This was necessary for Israel to survive as a nation under God's blessing. The story of Achan who took of the accursed things from Jericho is an example of capital punishment being carried out under the government of Israel. God worked with them both as a nation and as His "chosen people." They were both a physical nation and a spiritual nation. In Exodus 21 and following, after the giving of the ten commandments, God outlined how justice was to be dealt with on a national level. Take time to read it. It was "Eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, Burning for burning, wound for wound, stripe for stripe" (Exodus 21:24-25).
In the fullness of time, God sent His Son to provide redemption for the human race. After John the Baptist was cast into prison the Scriptures say, "From that time Jesus began to preach, and to say, Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand" (Matthew 4:17). In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus taught the nature of the Kingdom of Heaven. Nationalism as it existed in Old Israel did not apply to the Kingdom of Heaven which Jesus taught. Israel in Jesus' day was occupied by the Romans. Jesus did not resist the Romans nor teach others to do so. In the Kingdom of Heaven there is no earthly real estate to defend. Physical Israel has no counterpart in the Kingdom of Heaven. The Kingdom of Heaven lives within hearts of all committed Christians. God's presence (the Holy Spirit) dwells within them (Luke 17:20-21), and they are His envoy to the nations of the world. They do not become involved in the politics of the nations where they reside, even as Jesus did not become involved in His day. Often they are persecuted, even as Israel was in Egypt.
Jesus introduced a spiritual Kingdom with spiritual laws that replaced the Law of Moses. Jesus told his disciples, "And as ye go, preach, saying, The kingdom of heaven is at hand" (Matthew 10:7). This is the message of the Gospel today.
Jesus gave these teachings: "Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth: But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if any man will sue thee at the law, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloke also. And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain. Give to him that asketh thee, and from him that would borrow of thee turn not thou away. Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy. But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust. For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same? And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? do not even the publicans so? Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect" (Matthew 5:38-48). The citizens of the Kingdom of Heaven are thus commanded to suffer rather than make others suffer, to love rather than hate, to give rather than demand.
"Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new. And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation; To wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation. Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ's stead, be ye reconciled to God" (2 Corinthians 5:17-20). Christians of the Kingdom of Heaven are ambassadors to all nations of the world. Their ministry is to draw men away from loyalty to earthly nations to become citizens of the Heavenly Kingdom. They are calling men of all nations to be reconciled to God. That is our calling today.
As ambassadors of the Kingdom of Heaven we have no role in national politics or in the war effort of any given nation. While Christians of Christ's Kingdom live within national boundaries and may be considered citizens of a particular nation, they cannot legally become involved in a nation's affairs. Jesus said, "My kingdom is not of this world: if my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews: but now is my kingdom not from hence" (John 18:36).
God has ordained the rulers and the nations of this world. Romans 13:1-7 clarifies their purpose. When we read this passage we should remember that the nation of Israel was occupied by a heathen Roman government. "Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God. Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation. For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil. Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power? do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the same: For he is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil. Wherefore ye must needs be subject, not only for wrath, but also for conscience sake. For this cause pay ye tribute also: for they are God's ministers, attending continually upon this very thing. Render therefore to all their dues: tribute to whom tribute is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honour to whom honour." The governments of the world's nearly 200 different nations are ordained of God to restrain evil. Sometimes the rulers of these nations misuse their God given powers to persecute Christians. Many Christians today are being persecuted and killed by the rulers in the nations where they live. This is the price of loyalty to Christ and faithful discipleship.
What are Christians to do when the laws of the Kingdom of Heaven conflict with the laws of the nations in which they reside? When the disciples of Jesus were called into question by the Jewish rulers of their day, they said, "We ought to obey God rather than men" (Acts 5:29). Then they went out and rejoiced that they were counted worthy to suffer for His name sake. While it is proper to give thanks and pray for the rulers of the country in which we live and appreciate the benefits from it's privileges, we must always remember that our citizenship is in heaven. We must be willing to suffer in order to remain loyal to our heavenly citizenship.
So what do we do with the teachings of Jesus? Are they simply ideals to be talked about and then forgotten or rejected? Jesus said, "If ye love me, keep my commandments.... He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him.... Jesus answered and said unto him, If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him. He that loveth me not keepeth not my sayings: and the word which ye hear is not mine, but the Father's which sent me." (John 14:15,21,23-24).
"Recompense to no man evil for evil. Provide things honest in the sight of all men. If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men. Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord. Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink: for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head. Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good" (Romans 12:17-21).
Questions and Answers
Question: What about all the "What would you do if...." questions?
Answer: Kingdom Christians must never doubt the wisdom or the purposes of their King. The King has legions of angels and has perfect knowledge of every situation. In order to have the protection of the King we must believe and obey His instructions as given by His Son, Jesus Christ, on how we are to respond to those who would harm us. Sometimes He delivers His saints and sometimes He takes them into His very presence if they are killed. We must always trust the King. We must be willing to die for our King even as others die for their rulers. It can be observed that those who do not trust the King are often killed, as well, with no hope of eternal life with a King they do not trust. "For it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord."
Question: What about Jesus cleansing the temple?
Answer: The temple was His Father's House. He, in obedience to the Father, performed His Father's will. The biblical account is brief and depending on how we allow our imagination to run, we can come up with various conclusions.
As far as I can discern, Jesus harmed no one, though He would have had a right to do so. I, for one, assume He used His whip on the animals. He upset the tables of the money changers and chased them all out. It was His God given authority to do so. We have not been given that type of authority.
Question: Are you and I willing to trust and follow the King?
Answer: That is a very heart-searching question. How we respond to that question will determine our eternal destiny. If all that I am and have belong to Him, then I can answer that question in the positive. On the other hand, if I am set on self-preservation of life and possessions, then I must answer in the negative. To follow the king, I must completely surrender everything to His wisdom and purposes for my life. "No servant can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon" (Luke 16:13).