In some countries, it is common for Christians to blend a sense of national identity with their life of faith. In extreme versions, the flag is flown in the worship space and the congregation pledges allegiance to the country as part of the meeting. In their minds, other countries become ‘the enemy’, even when many of their citizens are also Christian.
In less obvious ways, we might hope that somehow our country is special in God’s purposes and has been raised up as a new ‘chosen people’.
It’s natural that we want to live ‘blessed’ lives in a peaceful and prosperous place, and we want to feel proud of our godly nation.
It is true that God loves people and is even interested in ethnicities, but I’m not sure he places a great store on political entities (which come and go throughout history).
Isaiah 40:15,17 is probably aimed at those who trust in national strength instead of him:
Surely the nations are like a drop in a bucket; they are regarded as dust on the scales; he weighs the islands as though they were fine dust. Before him all the nations are as nothing; they are regarded by him as worthless and less than nothing.
On the other hand, we read in 1 Timothy 2:1–3:
I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession, and thanksgiving be made for all people – for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good and pleases God our Saviour.
Clearly, it’s preferable if we can live at peace so we can get on with obeying Christ. At the same time, Jesus speaks of a kingdom that is not of this world and the church as his instrument to usher in this kingdom (not politicians and civic leaders).
From God’s perspective, the church is not divided along national lines (and frankly, not even along denominational lines). The idea is that the church brings people together from all backgrounds under the headship of Christ.
I would suggest it’s the only entity that can do this.
So, getting back to Australia Day and our much-vaunted multiculturalism. We can point to a degree of ‘success’ as a tolerant society (built on Christian foundations), but if we are honest, our cooperation is more about self-interest and fear of losing our place in the world. (Blimey, we better stick together, or we’ll be overrun by [fill in the blank].)
The kingdom of God is more than a call to tolerance and shared security – it is much more profound and almost defies definition.
The kingdom is advancing when King Jesus becomes the lord of our hearts. Our mutual love for him humbles us and reduces the barriers between us. It creates a unity that is more like super glue. Unity is far better than nationalism as it is based on love for him and each other, rather than a reaction to national insecurity.
As the dust settles after another Australia Day, let’s take up our leadership role as the church and advance the kingdom by displaying the love of Jesus – our nation needs salt more than ever.
This article is from the January–February 2022 edition of Cross-Cultural Ministry eNews. To sign up to receive this eNews in your inbox, click here.
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