The rise of Christian nationalism has lead many churches in America to compromise their mission. For years I’ve watched as Christians increasingly derive their hope and identity from political leaders and ideologies. I’ve seen the church repeatedly crawl into bed with whatever political leader keeps them in power. And sell out their God-given mission for scraps.
The American church has settled for a bastardized version of Christianity that lacks any real power. And we’ve drug Jesus’ name through the mud in the process.
I’ve seen crosses next to nooses. I’ve heard putrid words spewed at those with differing views. Seen pictures of Jesus defiled with political slogans. Heard the cries of those suffering ignored. I’ve watched as racism makes a resurgence within the church. And heard the Bible repeatedly ripped out of context to justify political stances.
The harsh reality is we’d rather have the kingdom of America advanced at the cost of the Kingdom of God. Too many Christians care more about being right than loving their neighbor. They are more concerned with the prospering of their political ideologies rather than the advancement of the Gospel. We’ve abandoned our mission.
Over the past several years we’ve had unprecedented opportunities to show God’s love and hope to others around us. Instead we’ve sacrificed our faith for temporary power and political gain. And that trade was not worth it.
The result of our work is a generation of people who have no interest in Jesus and what he has for them. And why would they? All they know is this adulterated version of Jesus, stripped of his power, that we’ve painted for them.
Church, we’ve got a problem. Even if you didn’t create the problem, it’s still our responsibility to fix it.
Christian Nationalism And The Gospel
Let me be clear. Nationalism and the Gospel are simply not compatible. They are antithetical. There can be no such thing as “Christian Nationalism.”
Just read the definition of nationalism.
Nationalism Definition (Merriam-Webster): Loyalty and devotion to a nation. A sense of national consciousness exalting one nation above all others and placing primary emphasis on promotion of its culture and interests as opposed to those of other nations or supranational groups.
The Gospel shows us a different way of life. It’s allegiance to God above anyone or anything else. It teaches us to place others’ needs above our own. After all, the Gospel centers around a King who gave up his life so that we may live. Our call is to do the same.
The Gospel is not for or 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).
The Gospel leaves no room for us to have other gods. It condemns the worship of political figures and ideologies. If you are a follower of Jesus, He is king of your life. Period.
This is why there can be no such thing as Christian Nationalism. It flies in the face of what the Bible teaches.
Now, I’m not saying you can’t support your country, that you shouldn’t vote, or that you can’t love where you live. I’m not saying you can’t be Republican or Democrat. And I’m not saying you can’t hold any political convictions.
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.
Here’s a question I think every follower of Jesus should seriously, and prayerfully consider. Who’s king of my life?
That’s not a finger I’m pointing at you. That’s a question I need too. It’s an invitation to look in the mirror.
Who’s Your King?
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.”
The past few years haven’t caused the church to misprioritize their values. Rather they exposed what’s been true for a long time. The king of our life isn’t Jesus.
Now, that might not be true for you personally. But for the church as a whole in our culture we bow to our political ideology. And Jesus makes clear, you can’t serve two masters (Matthew 6:24). And that’s not “their” problem, it’s our problem.
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 (1 Corinthians 12:27). It’s your job to show Jesus to those around you.
Right now there’s a lot of people that only know a bastardized view of Jesus. There are people who have rejected Jesus because they think this is who he is. We have generations of people that have the wrong picture of Jesus. And it’s EVERY follower of Jesus’ job to right these wrongs. To show them who Jesus really is.
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.
Right now, as a whole, the American church is miserably failing at this.
We’d rather fight than serve. Be right, rather than love. Throw stones, rather than make peace. Have power, rather than see lives transform. We want our prosperity at the cost of the advancement of God’s kingdom.
This is WHO the world thinks Jesus is. What he is about.
But we are supposed to be about loving our neighbors. Praying for our enemies. Finding unity in Christ. Bringing peace to chaos. Thirsting for righteousness. Using our strength for others. And let’s not forget Jesus’ last command he gave on earth: making disciples.
Simply put, the church in America is largely not known for the things Jesus was known for.
Andy Stanley says it this way in his book Not In It To Win It: “You can’t make disciples of people you demonize publicly and label enemies of the faith or the state.”
It’s time to get back on mission. It’s time to get out of bed with the political powers (on both sides). It’s time to be the hands and feet of Jesus.
So, what can we do? Let me end by giving you 5 things you can do.
1. Pray Fervently
Prayer does things that we cannot see or fully understand this side of heaven. Prayer changes our heart and aligns our heart to God’s.
This should always be our first step.
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.
2. Remember Your Citizenship
If you are a follower of Jesus you are a citizen of a kingdom not of this world. Your allegiance is God’s kingdom and not the earthly kingdom you temporarily reside in. You are a citizen of heaven.
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 allegiance lays. To encourage each of us to act like citizens of heaven.
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.
3. Be Known For LOVE
Jesus clearly tells us what his followers should be known for.
By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another. – John 13:35
This should be sobering for us. By and large we are not known for our love.
We are known for our political stances. We are known for candidates we support. We are known for arguing and bickering. We are known for standing against SOME sins, while ignoring others. But love? Rarely.
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):
Love God Love those around you
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.
4. Pursue Peace And Unity
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 list isn’t exhaustive. But it is a start. It’s the areas I see most lacking in the church in America and if I’m honest, my life. If we can embody these things we would be well on our way to representing Jesus well to those around us.
So go. Jesus’ final words on earth were a command to GO. Go make disciples of ALL people. Of ALL nations. Let me add this… Of ALL political parties and stances. Go to them too. God loves them and has something incredible for them.
May we put down our political ideologies and stop throwing stones. Instead may we pick up a towel and serve those around us. Even those with whom we disagree. Let’s get back to what’s most important.
Jesus has invited us into a better story, a more fulfilling life. Let’s stop settling for Christian nationalism or anything less and show those around us who Jesus really is.