Patriotism/Nationalism and the Gospel

In his book The Forgotten Ways: Reactivating the Missional Church, author Alan Hirsch notes that Jesus’ aim was “to transmit his message through the uniqueness of the lives of his followers, and this is to be expressed in every conceivable aspect of their lives” (p. 114).  Hirsch goes on to say regarding Christian movements:

When we look at the phenomenal movements in history, we find that these people movements found a way to translate the grand themes of the gospel (kingdom of God, redemption, atonement, forgiveness, love, etc…) into concrete life through the embodiment of Jesus in way that were profoundly relational and attractive (p. 114).

I like the emphasis placed every aspect of our lives and the way concrete behavior is correlated to the effectiveness of discipleship and witnessing.  Jesus calls us to follow him not just in our thinking or in our verbal proclamation of the gospel but in the way we live too.   I can’t imagine any devoted follower of Jesus who would argue otherwise.  So what we are talking about is our calling to be disciples and witnesses of Jesus in every aspect of our lives that is tangibly seen in concrete behavior.

I would like to briefly focus on the issue of patriotism/nationalism since our Memorial Day has just past and the 4th of July, which comes with an even more heightened sense of patriotic fever, is lurking around the corner.  Discussions on the ethics of Christian participation in patriotic/nationalistic celebrations seem to revolve around one of two stances.  Either it is acceptable or it is wrong.  Which ever position a person takes, they resort to endless proof-texting of scripture to find that passage which affirms their position (which is a complete misuse of scripture).  This approach seems only to result in more hardened hearts and hurt feelings that leads us down a road towards legalism rather than freedom in Christ (regardless of what position we are defending).

It seems that a better question would be to ask whether the activity we are engaging will allow me to still bear witness to Jesus as his disciple.  Or, to ask in the negative, does the activity we are engaging in render diminish our witness as disciples of Jesus.  Or to ask the question another way, by engaging in certain activities, how would other perceive our passion to be?  Jesus, who is Lord, or…?

There is no one size fits all answer to these question and the various patriotic/nationalistic activities that will take place.  Each activity must be assessed on individually in it’s own unique context.  However, if we don’t ask ourselves these questions, we are more likely to be witnesses to someone/something other than Jesus and that is why this is such an important issue.

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One response to “Patriotism/Nationalism and the Gospel

  1. Yes, such questions must be answered, not out of proof-texts, though the text is necessary, nor out of principles, though there are principles involved, nor out of ideologies, though ideology may be used to articulate our reasons, but primarily out of deep communion with the Ineffable Life of the Trinity, and in the Secret Place of the heart, finding birthed the thing that we are to do, that will breathe the Mystery of the Kingdom into the historic circumstance we finds ourselves in.

    And, of course, as we unite ourselves with the life of the Trinity, and live it in this world, to some it will be winsome and attractive, but to more it will be repulsive and we will find resistance. And, then, of course, the demons will also oppose. “Get behind me Satan, for you savor the things that are not of God”, said the Lord, more or less, to Peter; and there will be opposition of brethren, who are still not perceiving the Kingdom.

    But let us deny ourselves, and take up the Cross, and follow Him!

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