Rev. Bill Hodgeman: The rise of ‘Christian nationalism’

Published: 2/21/2021 4:00:15 PM

Jesus is not a Christian nationalist. According to Luke’s gospel, Jesus launched his public ministry by referencing episodes from Israel’s past when God sent prophets to perform miracles on behalf of Israel’s political enemies. His point (that God was preparing to do it again) was not lost on the crowd, who responded by trying to throw Jesus off a cliff.

Those who stormed the capital on Jan. 6 “in God’s name” did so in the tradition of the crowd — not Jesus. Throughout his ministry, Jesus scandalized his contemporaries by ministering to Canaanites, Samaritans and even Romans (who were the occupying force at the time). He taught his disciples to love their enemies and spun parables to expose the prejudice in some of his hearers’ hearts.

Before his ascension, Jesus commissioned his followers to make disciples of all nations, and take his gracious message to the ends of the earth. They took him seriously, and within a generation, the gospel had penetrated dozens of cities throughout the empire, and even gone as far as Ethiopia. The Apostle Paul celebrates the fact that, in Christ, there is neither Jew nor Gentile, and that the cross of Christ destroyed the “dividing wall of hostility” between nations so that “those who were once far away have been brought near.” The Apostle John is given a vision of the end of history in which “a great multitude ... from every nation, tribe, people and language” is gathered around God’s throne.

Those who assume that America has a privileged place in God’s heart would do well to reflect on the prophet Isaiah’s words: that the nations are like a drop in God’s bucket. Or Job’s and Daniel’s insistence that God makes nations and empires rise and fall. Or the Apostle Paul’s reminder that a Christian’s citizenship is in heaven, not their earthly city.

The rise of “Christian nationalism” — far from advancing the work of God, actually obscures it. It is an attempt to limit God’s love and restrict the gospel’s power. Worse still, it is idolatry because it insists that salvation comes through political victories.

Rev. Bill Hodgeman

Sunderland

The writer is senior pastor at College Church.



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