Is Patriotism Biblical? Yes and No

patriotism

“Patriotism is a thing difficult to put into words. It is neither precisely an emotion nor an opinion, nor a mandate, but a state of mind — a reflection of our own personal sense of worth, and respect for our roots. Love of country plays a part, but it’s not merely love. Neither is it pride, although pride too is one of the ingredients.

Patriotism is a commitment to what is best inside us all. And it’s a recognition of that wondrous common essence in our greater surroundings — our school, team, city, state, our immediate society — often ultimately delineated by our ethnic roots and borders… but not always.

Indeed, these border lines are so fluid… And we do not pay allegiance as much as we resonate with a shared spirit.

We all feel an undeniable bond with the land where we were born. And yet, if we leave it for another, we grow to feel a similar bond, often of a more complex nature. Both are forms of patriotism — the first, involuntary, by birth, the second by choice.

Neither is less worthy than the other.

But one is earned.”  (Vera Nazarian)

But is patriotism Biblical?

Yes and no.

No, if it implies xenophobia or a racist arrogance towards people of other nations. Yes, if it means a total commitment to the country of my new birth.

We are on this earth only for a short while and we should feel as settled in this world as we would feel if we were traveling in Mongolia. It may be a fascinating place to visit, but I couldn’t sink down roots there easily!

To us, the word “pilgrim” reminds us of the quaint folks who came over on the Mayflower in 1620. We may think about them with their broad brimmed hats each year at Thanksgiving whilst wolfing down a turkey dinner. But we don’t identify much with them.

Being a pilgrim just isn’t the dominant model of the Christian life for our times. Our view of Christianity is geared to the here and now: What will it do for my marriage? How will it help me raise my kids? Will it help me succeed in my career? Will it help me overcome personal problems? Will it help me feel fulfilled as a person? Heaven is thrown in as a nice benefit at the end of the ride. But heaven is not our focus. We want to enjoy life now and cling to it as long as we’re able. We don’t view death as the gateway to everything we’ve been living for. We see it as something to be postponed and avoided at all costs. We don’t view ourselves as pilgrims.

In 1 Corinthians it’s easier to miss the full import of  15:19: “If we have hoped in Christ in this life only, we are of all men most to be pitied.” I thought, “Can I truthfully say that?” For me, the Christian life is the best way to live. I have a wonderful wife and children. I have the family of God. I have fellowship with my Creator and Saviour. His Word guides me. I enjoy all the blessings He bestows. Where else can you find a way of life that brings as much joy as Christianity?

But.

But “this world is not my home. I’m just a-passin’ through.”  There’s nothing wrong and everything right about enjoying God and the blessings He freely bestows on us in this life. But if we don’t hold the things of this life loosely and aren’t focused on God Himself and on being in heaven with Him as our goal, we are holding to a shallow form of Christianity.

And the only thing that can steel us to endure suffering and to seek holiness in this wicked world is to live as pilgrims, bound for heaven.

That’s what Peter wanted his persecuted readers to see– that the Christian life is a pilgrim life. We’re aliens and strangers on this earth. Peter shows us four things we must do to live as pilgrims:

To live as pilgrims, there is a mindset to adopt and a war to fight

  1. To live as pilgrims, there is a mindset to adopt.

Beloved, I urge you as aliens and strangers…” (2:11). That’s how we are to think about ourselves: Beloved by God we are thus aliens and strangers on this earth which is for now under the dominion of the evil one. Thus we’re not simply foreigners, we’re on enemy turf! We dare not forget it! Our sense of identity should not be derived from this world, but from our relationship to God and His people, bound for heaven.

“Alien” and “stranger” are used synonymously. They point to one who is a temporary resident or traveller in a foreign country, passing through on his way to his home country. Such a person has a different mentality about life than a permanent native has.

For one thing, a traveler doesn’t live according to the customs and standards of the foreign country. For the sake of not offending the locals, he may temporarily adopt some of their customs. As citizens of heaven, we may adopt some of the ways of earth, if they are morally neutral, in order not to offend the natives. But we live according to different standards than they do, namely those of God’s Word.

Pilgrims don’t get attached to the country they’re passing through. They have a destination in mind, and they look forward to getting there. If they pass through a scenic area, they’ll enjoy the beauty, but they won’t decide to move there. If they stop at a nice hotel, they don’t start hanging pictures on the wall and settling in. They have a transient mentality that affects how they live on the trip.

As a young man, Jonathan Edwards resolved to think much, on all occasions, of his dying, and of the common circumstances which attend death. That may sound morbid and it runs against the grain of our day. But I think it’s biblical. We’re aliens and strangers on this earth, heading as pilgrims toward heaven. We’ve got to adopt that mindset, which includes constantly remembering that we aren’t staying here for long. Our home is in heaven. We should live like it!

Second, to live as pilgrims, there is a war to fight.

Abstain from fleshly lusts which wage war against the soul” (2:11). To abstain means “to hold oneself constantly back from.” Waging war points, not to a single battle, but to a military campaign. Every believer faces a lifelong struggle against these fleshly lusts which, if yielded to, will take a person captive and destroy him.

These lusts wage war against the soul, by which Peter means the total person. But the word “soul” connotes the nuance of the inner person. The battle against sin is waged in the mind (1:13-14). If you can win the war against sin in your thought life, you will win in your behavior. All sin starts in the mind and must be defeated there. We must learn to take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ (2 Cor. 10:4).

We’re in a war for the rest of the time that we’re in this body.

Also, note that we are able and responsible to obey this command to abstain from these fleshly desires. Certainly such fleshly desires are powerful. The word “war” points to a fierce, constant struggle which implies a fair amount of effort on our part. If we yield, we can become enslaved to them (2 Pet. 2:18). But through saving faith in Jesus Christ and through the power of the indwelling Spirit and the Word of God, we can abstain from these lusts. We can experience God’s victory in the war.

I make this point for two reasons. There is a teaching that says that we are not to struggle or exert ourselves in the Christian life. If we are struggling, they say, it is the flesh. We are rather to let go and let God. We just rest or abide in Him, and He gives us the victory. The Christian life is portrayed as effortless and easy. I bought into that teaching for a while as a young man, but it didn’t help me overcome the lusts of the flesh. It is not balanced teaching. Peter does not urge us to rest, but rather actively to abstain from these lusts which war against our soul.

Thus, to live as pilgrims, there is a mindset to adopt: strangers and aliens; there is a war to fight: abstain from fleshly lusts.

To live as pilgrims, there is a lifestyle to maintain.

“Keep your behaviour excellent among the Gentiles” (2:12). The word “behaviour” (used in 1 Pet. 1:15, 18; 3:1, 2, 16; 2 Pet. 2:7; 3:11; the verb is used in 1 Pet. 1:17 & 2 Pet. 2:18) means conduct, way of life or lifestyle. It points to the overall flavor of our lives. The word “excellent” means good in the sense of beautiful or attractive. Our lives should be marked by “good deeds” which conform to God’s Word, but which also, in a lesser sense, are viewed by even a godless culture as attractive. The world should look at the lives of Christians and admit, even if they don’t accept Christ or the Bible, that we are good people.

Note that the pagans (“Gentiles”) observe our good deeds. This word only occurs here and in 3:2. It has the nuance of long-term, reflective observation. Even if you’re not aware of it, unbelievers are watching your life. They see how you react to things at work. They observe how you talk about others. They watch how you deal with problems. They note how you treat your family. Missionaries who have gone to primitive cultures tell of how the natives will often come and stand at their open windows, watching everything they do to see how they do it. They are watching you as an alien and stranger.

But Peter is not so naive as to think that our good deeds will result in the immediate conversion of the lost. Rather, out of jealousy, guilt, or insecurity, they may slander us. Often they will try to get us to break down and be just like them. The early church was often accused of murder, incest, and cannibalism in their secret church meetings. After all, they met to eat some man’s flesh and drink his blood, they called one another brother and sister and were affectionate toward each other! They were even called atheists because they refused to worship the emperor and had only one God!

But Peter says that as pilgrims, we are to maintain a lifestyle of attractive deeds, even in the face of ugliness from those who are lost. It will result ultimately in glory to God (2:12), which is the overall aim of the Christian life.

Cal Thomas, a Christian newspaper columnist, wrote

“I got a letter from an editor of a newspaper that recently started carrying my column. He said, “I’m so frustrated because I’m the only believer on the entire editorial staff.” I wrote back and said, “Let’s say that you weren’t on the newspaper staff but that you were a CIA plant in the politburo of the Soviet Union. Would you be complaining that you were the only one there? You would be rejoicing that your government had placed you in such a strategic position.” That is the attitude we ought to have. God has placed us in strategic positions no matter what our job is, whether we are employed or not. If we can catch that vision, if we can see ourselves as the spiritual equivalent of CIA plants and the world as the politburo, then I think we can get on fire for God and really do something significant.”

Thus as pilgrims in enemy territory, we adopt a mindset as aliens; we fight a war against fleshly lusts; we maintain a lifestyle of good works, even when we are treated unfairly or wrongly by the lost. (From a Steven Cole sermon)

 

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This entry was posted in Christianity, Contemporism, Evangelism, Faith, God, Is it me?, Jesus, life, Listening, The church today and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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