I see so many things in my daily reading of Scripture that are relevant to what is going on in my life, the things that I am talking to people about, and wrestling with myself. Today, is no different, including the following passage from Matthew from a friend who sends daily versus to people on a text list:
“The devil took [Jesus] to the peak of a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. ‘I will give it all to you,’ he said, ‘if you will kneel down and worship me.’ ‘Get out of here, Satan,’ Jesus told him. ‘For the Scriptures say, ‘You must worship the Lord your God and serve only him.””Matthew 4:8-10
The relevance of this passage today relates to conversations I have had with people and articles I have written that touch on the popular infamy of so-called “Christian nationalism”. I put the phrase in quotation marks because people mean different things by it. The definition of Christian nationalism aside, I would agree that there is some element of preoccupation among people who identify as Christians in America that is unhealthy and askew.
The American Church has traditionally been very patriotic. Not that patriotism is necessarily wrong, but we have to be careful, as with all things that might compete for our singular allegiance and devotion to God. I have seen an unhealthy focus on the United States as a new Israel. I believe we focus too much, sometimes, on protecting our comfortable status quo, when God may be trying to shake things up.
I won’t rehash the many times I have written about the admonition from Jesus to welcome strangers, which would seem to be a no-brainer for a Christian nation. The issue of abortion should also have more consensus as well. In truth, we are more a Christian nation in name in the 21st Century, than in practice.
For that reason, I understand the desire and effort to take over the political landscape for Christ. I was once very much behind that effort. Not that I am against it now, but my understanding of Scripture and how we should operate in the world has shifted my view.
Ultimately, it doesn’t matter how relatively righteous or just the United States of America is compared to other nations of the world, a topic that can be hotly debated. The US is not the Kingdom of God.
The US is not even like Israel that God established in the promised land for His purpose and out of which soil He established the time and place for the coming of the Messiah, God who entered into His creation as man. We should not forget that God “came to His own, and His own did not receive Him”. (John 1:11)
Not even the nation of Israel is the Kingdom of God. The Zealots of the time realized to their chagrin that Jesus did not come to establish God’s kingdom as the nation of Israel. In fact, the Kingdom of God won’t be established on earth (as it is in heaven) in our lifetime, or the lifetime of anyone until the day Christ returns.
The Kingdom of God is present, but it is growing organically like a mustard seed, affecting the world like leaven, buried like treasure hidden in a field or a pearl hidden in an oyster beneath the sea. The kingdom of God is expressed through the salt and light of believers, if Indeed) we retain our saltiness and our light can be distinguished from the darkness of the world.
When the time comes for the Kingdom of God to be established as Jesus spoke, God will establish it, and it will be established in a new heavens and a new earth. A new Jerusalem will come down and be established on earth. (Revelation 21:1-5) Regardless of your eschatology, this is ultimately how the Kingdom of God will be established that we wait for.
Meanwhile, the kingdoms of this earth cannot be conflated with the Kingdom of God, no matter how righteous or just we feel a particular Kingdom might be.
I am reminded of these things in this passage from Matthew where Satan tempted Jesus with all the kingdoms of this world if Jesus would just bow down to him. Jesus flatly refused him, saying that he would only worship God alone. If we had the same mindset in our lives today, I doubt anyone what accuse a Christian of nationalism.
The thing is that, ultimately, “The kingdom[s] of the world [will] become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he shall reign forever and ever.” (Revelation 11:15) That day has not yet come, however. When that day comes, God is the one who will establish it.
Meanwhile, We should not be tempted to conflate any kingdom in this world with the Kingdom to come. A passage from my own daily Bible reading is right on point. Jesus said in the context of the end times:
“Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.”Matthew 24:35