Christian Nationalism And The Bastardization Of The Gospel
Before you read any further let me say this. I debated on what to say, how to say it, and even if I should say it for a long time. It’s easy to state your opinion and even point out truth. It’s much more difficult to say things in a way that is helpful and that people are receptive to.
That’s my hope for this blog post. I don’t want this to be a rant or finger pointing. I don’t think that does anyone any good. I hope that this is a challenge for you to look at Jesus’ example and follow him.
My ask for you is to take a minute to look in the mirror and evaluate if you are representing Jesus well. If something in this post makes you uncomfortable, upset, or just rubs you the wrong way don’t write it off, lean in. Maybe you just disagree with me, and that’s fine if you do. But maybe the irritation you feel as you read is the Holy Spirit trying to get your attention.
Alright, deep breath. Let’s go.
This Is Not Jesus
What happened on January 6th on Capitol Hill was shocking to say the least. I never thought I’d see something like that happen in this country. While I’m saddened by the state of our country and the actions of a few, I’m sickened by the way Jesus is being represented.
There are some acting in the name of Jesus, but what they are doing is not from Jesus. Their message and agenda stands opposed to the Gospel. And this bastardized version of Christianity is what the world sees. It’s who they think Jesus is.
Now I know that’s not the majority of Christians. And most Christians can see through this fake version of Christianity. But for many in this country, all they know is a bastardized Jesus.
We’ve got some work to do. Because this is NOT Jesus:
This is not the Gospel. This has no place in the kingdom of Jesus. This is wrong. This is evil. This is demonic. This is a bastardization of Jesus. This is what happens when Christianity gets in bed with Nationalism.
Nationalism and the Gospel are simply not compatible. They are antithetical.
Christian Nationalism isn’t anything new, it’s been around for a long time. But over the past few years, it’s been gaining more traction. And it’s time for the Church to stand against it. To show those around who Jesus really is.
Let me be clear.
Jesus is not affiliated with any political party or power. Jesus is not a Republican or a Democrat.
Jesus’ Kingdom is diametrically opposed to the kingdoms of this world. Yes, that includes your party.
Jesus is not a prop to support a political ideology. Though He is routinely dragged into them.
Jesus’ primary concern is not the prospering of this nation. Though He deeply cares for the people that live here (He also cares for and loves the enemies of this country).
Jesus leaves no room for us to have other gods. He condemns the worship of political figures and ideologies. If you are a follower of Jesus, He is king of your life. Period.
Now, I’m not saying you can’t support your country or that you can’t love where you live. What I am saying is that as a Christian your ultimate allegiance isn’t to the flag your country flies or the political party that you think is best. It’s to God. And there will come a point where what’s in the nation’s best interest or your party’s best interest is contrary to what God says is best. In those times you have to choose who’s first in your life. Who’s king of your life?
That’s not a finger pointing at you. That’s a question I need too. It’s an invitation to look in the mirror.
I found this quote by Joshua Straub convicting, If the fruit of my political stance is loving those who think like me and hating those who don’t: fighting for a policy more than listening to people; padding my pockets before giving to the poor; living in fear more than faith; and loving my country more than my neighbor, then I’m putting trust in this kingdom more than His.
Listen. There’s a lot at stake here. The only picture of Jesus that many people have is the one you show them. If you are a follower of Jesus, you are his representative. His hands and feet. It’s your job to show Jesus to those around you.
Right now there’s a lot of people that have a bastardized view of Him. Yes, I know it’s probably not your doing that someone put a MAGA hat on Jesus or drug a cross onto Capitol Hill in support of a political candidate. I get that. But that makes what you and I do even more important. We’ve got to show those in our lives who Jesus really is.
You Are An Image Bearer
Here’s the most important reminder and why I think this message is critical. If you are a follower of Jesus you are His hands and feet. You represent Him to the people around you. Take a minute to wrap your head around the magnitude of that responsibility.
There are people who don’t know Jesus who are watching you and making assumptions about what Jesus is like. There are people around you whose picture of who Jesus is will be shaped by what you do and say. For better or worse.
And right now there’s a lot of people in our country whose only image of Jesus is this bastardized version that’s all over the internet. There are people that will likely never lean into what Jesus has for them because of how He’s being portrayed by those acting in his name. They are going to assume that is who Jesus is.
May that not be so. Church, it’s time to get to work. It’s our job to show them the real Jesus.
If you are a Jesus follower, here’s how we can show those around us who Jesus really is.
Prayer does things that we cannot see or fully understand this side of heaven. Prayer should be the first thing we turn to when we find ourselves or someone else is in need.
Pray for healing in our country.
Pray for the leaders on BOTH sides.
Pray for your heart to reflect God’s heart.
Pray for opportunities and boldness to show God’s love.
I would encourage you to pray through these not just once but regularly. Maybe write them down and put them somewhere you will see them each day. Or maybe set a reminder on your phone that goes off at a specific time.
The first step every Christian should take is to devote regular time to prayer. Prayer is where it starts, but it should never be where it ends. Prayer should always lead to action.
Remember Your Identity
There’s no doubt the stakes are high in our country and what happens matters. But our hope is not found in what does or doesn’t happen.
If your hope is in the next political candidate, some political ideology, or making sure that person doesn’t get elected, you will be let down. Even if your candidate gets (re)elected and makes incredible improvements, at some point, politics will still fail you. They simply cannot give you what they promise. Only one person can do that.
Again, I’m not saying you shouldn’t care or be involved in what’s happening in this country. You should. I’m cautioning us to be aware of where our heart lies. An increasing number of Christians are willing to sacrifice their faith for their political beliefs, nationalism, and (ironically) religious freedoms. That’s a dangerous game to play, one that will eventually cost you and this country.
God’s given you a new identity. You do not belong to this world. You are citizens of another kingdom (Hebrews 11:16, Philippians 3:20). Live like it.
Be Known For Love
By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another. — John 13:35
Are you known for how you love? Be honest.
How do you think the average person in America would describe Christians? I would be shocked if love made it in the top 5. We got some work to do.
We should be known by our love. Jesus sums up the entire Bible by saying it comes down to two things (Matthew 22:36–40):
That’s it. That’s what Jesus is calling us to do. To love, even when it hurts and costs us.
Jesus set the example, he died for us while we were still sinners. May we too love those in our life in a sacrificial manner so that they too might know the love God has for them.
Pursue Unity And Peace
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. Matthew 5:9
In Matthew 5:3–11 Jesus lays out the distinguishing marks of His kingdom. One of the marks is that we are to make peace. But it’s so much easier to throw gasoline on the fire isn’t it? But that’s not what Jesus calls us to do. In a world that is broken and divided we should be pursuing peace and unity.
Read more about it here: Jesus Establishes His Revolutionary Kingdom
That command should prompt concern within us, because we are not known for our unity or peace in this country.
We would rather hold onto our political rights and freedoms than pursue unity. And no, I’m not saying your political beliefs aren’t important. Rather, I’m saying there’s something more important. Jesus is greater.
It’s possible to have peace with those who voted differently than you. It’s possible to be friends with someone who views the world differently than you. It’s possible to stand for your convictions in love. It’s possible to love someone with whom you disagree with.
I bet that if you actually took the time to talk (not argue, talk) to people who are on the other side you would find more similarities than differences. When we see our political opponents as people. When we step into their story. When we understand why they believe what they believe. Peace and unity are possible.
This one is tough for me. Actually, I think it’s tough for everyone. There’s an incredible amount of unforgiveness in our culture. You screw up once and you are done. We live in a cancel culture. We love calling people out for their mistakes. You make a mistake and you are canceled.
The problem is we all make mistakes. So, if you play by those rules eventually you will be the one that gets canceled.
Jesus offers a way out. He gives us what we need and not what we deserve. That’s called grace. We’ve been forgiven of much, therefore we should forgive others.
It’s not fair and it’s not easy, it cost Jesus his life and it will cost us too. But when we show grace, when we offer forgiveness we are showing people a glimpse of Jesus.
In a culture that relishes pointing out others failure, imagine the impact a Church that pours out lavish grace would make.
The above is not an extensive list. But it’s the areas I see as the most lacking in most Christians’ lives (including mine). If we could embody these things I think our faith would grow, our lives would be characterized by peace and joy, and people far from God would come close.
Jesus has invited us into a better story, a more fulfilling life. Let’s stop settling for anything less and show those around us who Jesus really is.
Let’s hear from you, what are your thoughts?
Originally published at https://www.rethinknow.org on January 11, 2021.