Patriotism and Christianity (Part 2)
Do they mix?
In the first part of this study we looked at who the founders of the U.S. gave credit for the authority for the founding of our country. Then we asked a few questions; 1., What does the Old Law say about the authority of nations. 2., From where do the nations receive their powers? Can we learn anything there that would prove or disprove the founders’ beliefs?
I think it is safe to say we found that nations are set up by God, they receive their authority from God, and the founders were correct to give God credit for the authority to create our nation. So, in this post we will turn to the New Testament. Does the New Law agree with the Old, or has the New added or changed anything? Does Jesus, Himself, say anything about national authority? Is the patriotism question answered directly, or can we infer an answer from the Bible?
The New Testament
Like the Old Testament, the New Testament says a pretty good bit about the nations, their authority, and how we are to act toward them. I’d like to start with Romans chapter 13 as it is very clear about the expected attitude toward governing authorities. The very 1st sentence of the chapter reads, “Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers.” Can’t be much more straightforward than that! Paul goes on to tell us that only God has power, but He allows the rulers a portion of that power. Then in verse 2 he tells us if we resist that power that is portioned out to the rulers we are actually resisting God and “they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation.” While this doesn’t say anything directly about patriotism, it is important because it gives us an idea of how important governments are to God, and it gives us an idea of how much respect we are to give them.
In verse 4 Paul goes on to call the rulers “the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil.” Now “minister of God” does not mean that all rulers are godly men, or men after God’s own heart, but God uses even evil men to do his will as we saw with King Nebuchadnezzar, in Part 1. And in verse 5 Paul says, “Wherefore ye must needs be subject.” Again, not a direct answer to the patriotism question, but it shows the level of respect that we owe our governments.
In 1 Timothy 2:1-2 we see that we are to pray and give thanks for all men, and a certain group is singled out, “For kings, and for all that are in authority.” This may be hard to do, but it is something that wasn’t suggested but, rather, commanded. If nothing else we should be praying for laws that would allow us to keep the religious freedoms we have remaining, and to hopefully regain ones lost. Also, to lead a “quiet and peaceable life” as stated at the end of verse 2. Remember, though, that even though we may not like our authority figures they are holding a position created by God that was intended as a help for us.
Did Jesus speak on this topic? He did. Let’s remember some of the history of the time before we look at what Jesus said. At that time, the Romans were an occupying force in Israel. To say that the Jews disliked the Romans may be quite an understatement! It made it worse that the Jews knew they were the chosen people of God, and they were being occupied by Gentiles. Needless to say, they wanted nothing to do with the Romans, and wanted them out of their land.
With that in mind, in Matthew chapter 22 we see a group of Pharisees asking Jesus if it is lawful (meaning under the Old Law) to pay tribute (taxes) to the Romans. I suspect they didn’t like Jesus’ answer. Jesus had them give him a tribute coin, and asked, “Whose is this image and superscription?” When the Pharisees answered “Caesar’s”, Jesus told them, “Render therefore unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s; and unto God the things that are God’s.” So, we see that Jesus’ teaching (and those of the apostles) on national authority is in keeping with the Old Law, and we are to treat the authorities the same way the Jews would have. Respect, and as Peter tells us in 1 Peter 2:17, “Honour the king.”
So, does the Bible teach us anything about patriotism? No, at least not directly. I do think, however, seeing that we are to pray and be thankful for, respect, and honor those in our government, we can infer that patriotism is a characteristic that is fine for the Christian to have and display. Well, why do dome believe patriotism is wrong? Where I see the problem with the claim made that patriotism is wrong, is that the ones claiming this were saying “nation worship is wrong.” While I agree with that statement, being patriotic does not mean you are “worshipping” your country. You can be appreciative, thankful, and proud of your country without rising to the level of worshipping it. If you are someone that does worship your country, then you do have a problem and need to reexamine your priorities. If we are keeping God as our main priority and doing His will, then I think there is room to fit a little patriotism into our lives.
If you have any questions or comments please feel free to ask or comment away!