Social Issues (Part 8): Nationalism

Social Issues

Before we begin, we need to be careful how we talk about nationalism because different people may have different ideas in mind when they use the term. On a fundamental level, nationalism is the desire for a nation to gain and/or maintain sovereignty (the right to rule itself without being ruled by others). In this sense it is closely associated with patriotism. These are not wrong in themselves. However, a spirit of nationalism can be dangerous when taken to an extreme, especially when it is in support of an oppressive and wicked government.

Those who argue in favor of nationalism will appeal to the people’s common language, culture, history, etc., in order to promote national unity. This in itself is not necessarily a bad thing. However, there are three potential dangers that could come from this: (1) a willingness to support a godless, tyrannical government/leader who is advancing the cause of the nation; (2) a willingness to rally around an immoral or unjust cause because it has been adopted by the nation as a whole; and (3) a willingness to blindly follow the direction of the leaders because of the belief that they must be doing God’s will (or that the nation as a whole can be called the people of God).

Facts & Statistics

The spirit of nationalism contributed to the rise of Nazi Germany. This led to the Holocaust in which about 6 million Jews (and many others) were killed.

Basic Bible Principles Relating to This

Every nation is made up of people who are made in God’s image – Paul told the Greek philosophers on Mars Hill, “[God] made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined their appointed times and the boundaries of their habitation” (Acts 17:26). [We noticed this point also in our lesson on racism.]

The church and the gospel are for those of every nation – Isaiah prophesied that “all the nations” would come to be a part of the kingdom which would be established by the Lord (Isaiah 2:2-4). When Jesus gave His apostles the Great Commission, He told them to “go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation” (Mark 16:15). After Peter was sent to preach to the household of Cornelius (a Gentile), he said, “I most certainly understand now that God is not one to show partiality, but in every nation the man who fears Him and does what is right is welcome to Him” (Acts 10:34-35). No one would be excluded from this.

God has ordained a specific role for civil governments – This role is to punish evildoers and protect the innocent (Romans 13:1-4). They are His ministers as they fulfill that role.

The fact that a government is engaged in a particular work or mission does not necessarily make it right – The church in Smyrna was warned that “the devil is about to cast some of you into prison” (Revelation 2:10). That would have been civil authorities acting as ministers of Satan rather than as ministers of God.

We are to submit to civil authorities to the extent that God allows us to submit to them – Yes, we are to “be in subjection to the governing authorities” (Romans 13:1), but that is conditional. When their laws go against the instructions we have received from God, then “we must obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29).

We are to pray for our leaders – Paul told Timothy we are to pray for government leaders (1 Timothy 2:1-4), but he also emphasized the purpose for this. We are not necessarily to pray for their success in promoting the desire or cause of the nation. Instead, this prayer is that they allow us to “lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity” (1 Timothy 2:2).

As Christians, we are primarily citizens of heaven – Paul reminded the brethren in Philippi of this: “For our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ” (Philippians 3:20). Therefore, we need to put the cause of Christ’s kingdom ahead of the cause of whatever nation in which we currently live.

Bottom Line

No nation today can be called “God’s chosen people.” Now, His people are found in the church. While we may appreciate the blessings of living in this country and take advantage of the freedoms and opportunities that come with it, we must never value our earthly citizenship over our heavenly citizenship.

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