In the Beginning…Truly One Nation Under God
Here at Fellowship, we believe that the Bible is God’s actual Word to the world,1 and that the Biblical account of historical events is God’s telling of history to us. Therefore, we believe that in the beginning, God created humankind to subdue and fill the earth as one ever-growing extended family.2 The intention was to share one culture, share one religion, share one language and see the whole world as shared “family land” in the singular Kingdom of God on earth. But as sin entered the world, so entered selfishness, greed, fear and the desire for a sense of safety and security from other people around us.3 Therefore, land, technology and people began to be seen as resources we were tempted to protect, hoard or take from others; Instead of resources to be shared in a familial way for the good of all.4
Sin Created a “Necessity” and “Temptation” Toward Nationalism
At the Tower of Babel in Genesis 11, we are told that mankind’s unified sin against God had grown again to the point that God wanted to do something to limit sin on the earth. Since God had promised not to judge the world again in a catastrophic way, in His grace, He scattered mankind throughout the world, confusing their language from one another. This was the beginning of the individual “nations” that have taken shape throughout history.5 In the same way that a capitalist economy would say that competition is necessary to curb the greed and oppression that a monopoly can create, God graciously created groups of people who would bond together and protect one another against the sin of others based on a sense of “nationalism.” Because of that, nations and nationalism are both good and bad. It serves a good purpose on the earth to appeal to broken people, in a broken world, to have a broken reason to care for others beyond themselves, whether they believe in God or His Gospel or not. But it is also a constant temptation to take pride in one nation over another, and compete, oppress or even war with one another over the resources God desires for us to share.
Israel as a Picture of the Kingdom of God in a Physical Nation
In the Old Testament era, God set apart one of these nations, Israel, to show the other nations who the true God that created them really was and what law, order, service, economics, and life as a fallen nation should look like under His authority.6 Israel wasn’t better than the other nations, but God chose them to show the world that He was better than their man-made gods and that His society was better than any society they could conceive of apart from Him.7 But Israel always struggled to realize God’s perfect nation because they were still fallen people trying to follow a perfect plan.8
The Church as an Expression of the Kingdom of God in Every Nation
When Jesus came to the earth, He began speaking and teaching about the “Kingdom of God” and the “Kingdom of Heaven” once again, casting the vision for a day when the Tower of Babel would be redeemed, and a singular Kingdom under God would be restored.9 This Kingdom is to consist of people from every tongue, tribe, and nation, not just one.10 And so people began believing in Jesus, being indwelt with His Holy Spirit to empower them to overcome their natural selfishness and sinfulness and being adopted into the family of God as citizens of this new Kingdom of Heaven.11 But the Church was not to be another nation-state like Israel in contrast to all the other nations. God is saving people from and planting His church within every nation like a mustard seed that will grow and gather people from every tongue, tribe, and nation into the Kingdom of God through His Gospel of love, not war.
America is an incredible nation. We are generous in the midst of world crises. We care about fighting for human rights in countries all over the world. And we have reflected Biblical values in many different ways in different eras of our history. We should all be thankful for the country that we live in. At the same time, America is a frustrating nation. We are in personal and national debt because of our greed and materialism. We have struggled to acknowledge the equality of all people within our nation. And we have rejected Biblical values in many ways in different eras of our history.
However, by the grace of God, as Christians, we are not only Americans, but we are also citizens of a perfect nation…heaven.
Every Christian should see ourselves as having a primary and secondary citizenship. Primarily and eternally, we are citizens of heaven, under the authority of Christ and His law of love and grace. Secondarily, and temporarily, we are citizens of the nation to which we are born or to which we have moved and become a citizen. So even though we do have earthly citizenship, our citizenship in the Kingdom of God comes first, as does His law of love, written on our hearts by the indwelling Holy Spirit. Therefore, if any earthly nation demands that we disobey King Jesus, we should maintain our allegiance to Him first and foremost.12 We should also see ourselves as fellow citizens of Heaven with disciples of Jesus from other countries even above and beyond our fellow countrymen from our earthly nation. The Kingdom of God is our first allegiance.13 Followers of Christ, gathered as churches, should also see ourselves as God’s chosen people in this era to gather as many of our fellow Americans into the Kingdom of God with us as possible, expanding our “borders” in love person by person, transforming America as much as God will allow from the inside out.14
That being said, because we still live in a fallen world, and because the effects of the Tower of Babel are still in the world, as is the sin that caused it, we also have a responsibility to join our non-Christian fellow Americans in protecting those around us from the oppression and sin of other nations, or those within our own, who would threaten our lives in their greed, oppression, and hate. We are Christians first and foremost. But we are American Christians. Therefore, we are called to submit to our governing leaders in every way except for any specific ways they might demand that we disobey King Jesus. They are the leaders, chosen by God, to limit America’s sin against other countries and the other countries’ sin against America, just as in the days after the Tower of Babel.15 However, as much as we may love America, we should never hate other countries or people from other countries.16 God wants to do His work to plant and grow His Kingdom in every country, just as He has in America. And even if we needed to fight against another country to protect others, we should do so with a sense of grief and prayer for Jesus to come and heal the sin that causes the conflict and beg Him to save them and be gracious to them as He has been to us. Instead of taking joy in any national victory, we should grieve the fact that there was any conflict in the first place.17
Because of this reality, Fellowship Bible Church will love and serve the country we live in and its citizens, but we will love and serve the Kingdom of God in every country and its citizens even more.
1 2 Peter 1:19-21; 2 Genesis 1:27-28; 3 Genesis 6:5; 4 Genesis 14:1-12; 5 Genesis 11:7-9; 6 Genesis 12:1-3; 7 Isaiah 48:9-11; 8 Matthew 21:33-46; Romans 10:18-21; 9 Mark 4:26-32; 10 Matthew 24:14; Revelation 7:9-10; 11 Philippians 3:20-21; 12 Acts 4:18-21; 13 Ephesians 2:13-22; 14 Revelation 11:15; 15 Romans 13:1-7; 16 Luke 6:27-28