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Weekly Word

Entries in Patriotism (1)

Tuesday
Sep062016

Society under Siege: Of Nations & Borders

Acts 17:26-28.  This sermon was preached by Pastor Marty Bonner on September 4, 2016.  Please note that this is the second part to a previous entry on Racism (August 28, 2016).

Last week we talked about racism, so today we are going to segue into the issue of nations and their borders.  Many have asked this question in one form or another, “Doesn’t Christian unity and the sovereignty of Christ demand that Christians work towards a global government that fixes all the evils of this world?”  Some picture this as a test, in which our passing will bring Christ back to pat us on the back saying, “Good job!”  So is it the job of Christians to build Utopia for Christ?  Within this idea are some who state that nations, borders, and patriotism are somehow racist things and should be abolished.

So what makes something racist anyways?  Typically for something to be racist, it has to be motivated by a sense of superiority.  So let us look at national patriotism.  It can be racist, but it can also not be racist.  It depends on the heart of the person.  If a person’s national patriotism is based on racism, it will become obvious in their treatment of other races.  If our patriotism leads us to attack others unprovoked, or to rejoice in their misfortunes and take advantage of them, then it is very likely racist and at least self-centered.  But, people can simultaneously be patriotic towards their own nation and respect the identity and patriotism of other nations.  So, tongue in cheek, let’s deal with that age old question, “Which person would Jesus deport?”

God created nations and boundaries

In Acts 17 verse 26 Paul was in Athens, Greece.  He reminds the wise men of Athens that there was One God who had made all the separate nations of the earth, from “One Blood.”  His purpose in doing so is to tie the fate of a Jew (him) and them.  His main point is that this One God is working out His will among all the nations, not just one.  Thus we are all in the same boat.  So why are there so many nations?  Where is Paul getting this idea from?  Well, he gets it from Deuteronomy 32:8-9.  Before we go there, let’s remind ourselves of Genesis 10.  Often called the Table of Nations, this is the first place we see nations in the Bible.  It is also important to note that Israel is not in this list simply because they didn’t exist yet.  Genesis moves from the account of the flood, to a list of the nations that developed after it.  It then gives the account of how these nations came about in chapter 11, The Tower of Babel.  It is here that mankind began to rebel against God’s command to multiply and fill the earth.  Instead, Nimrod led the people to build a great city and a great tower that would serve as a gate to the heavens (Babel meant “Gate of God”).  Thus Genesis 11:7 records God saying, “Come, let us go down and there confuse their languages, that they may not understand one another’s speech.”  There was a clear judgment event of which we are not given full details.  “Let us go down there” implies a visitation of sorts.  This is the backdrop to Deuteronomy 32:8-9.  Moses is pointing back to that time when God’s judgment of mankind separated it into different people who could not understand one another.  Basically Moses is explaining to Israel their place among the nations.  At Babel, God had disinherited the nations.  If they wanted to connect with the “gods” of the heavens, then God would separate them through language and boundaries.  Notice in Deuteronomy it is God who sets their boundaries.  Although some versions say that God separated them “according to the number of the children of Israel,” this is not the best reading.  The original was “sons of God.”  Space doesn’t permit going into this deeper.  But the sons of God, were a high class of spiritual beings that were present at the creation of the earth (Job 38:7).  God delegates the nations to these beings and from the list in Genesis 10 we can recognize 70 original nations.  However, Moses tells Israel that they are God’s portion or inheritance.

Let’s put this thread on hold for now.  So it was God who broke mankind up into nations and gave them set boundaries, and their preappointed times (i.e. how long they would last).  According to Romans 13:1-4, God has given each of these nations authority over what goes on within their own borders.  Of course history is littered with examples of how this authority has been abused and exercised for ignoble purposes.  Thus these nations are accountable to God for how they rule themselves and how they interact with other nations.  In that sense each nation is sovereign.  The individuals within each nation are to respect a nation’s authority, whether their own or another.  Thus we see the example of early Christians doing their best to respect the governments of the world.  The only law we see them disobeying is one that tells them to stop telling people about Jesus.  Why?  They do so because this is precisely what Jesus had commanded them to do.  So they respect the nations in so far as those nations operate within their God given authority.

Even Israel, when they were taking over Canaan, was told to respect the boundaries of other nations.  They were not just willy nilly conquering whatever they could like mindless, blood-thirsty savages.  Deuteronomy chapter 2 records several times when God warned Moses that Israel must not mess with other nations on their way to Canaan.  God had not given them those nations.  They were to respect the authority of those nations and purchase anything they wanted to use.  In fact, Israel ended up having to go many miles out of their way out of respect for nations that basically told them not to even set a foot in their territory.

Lastly, we must recognize that God is still sovereign over the affairs of all the nations.  As Paul states in Acts 17:26, the nations have been “preappointed  times” by God.  In His wisdom He has allowed the friction and fighting between nations to change from time to time.  In fact, those original nations that are listed in Genesis 10, no longer exist by God’s decree.  Romans 13 uses the phrase that the power that are (which currently exist) have been appointed by God.  The whole theme of the book of Daniel is that the living need to know that the Most High is sovereign over all kingdoms on earth and gives them to anyone he wishes and sets over them the lowliest of people (Daniel 4:17, 25, 32; 5:21).  This is important because in Daniel 7 there is a vision of the “Son of Man” approaching the Ancient of Days and receiving authority and sovereignty over all the nations.  So where are we with all this nations and borders?

The Nations have rebelled against God

As we saw back in Isaiah 24:2, in previous sermons, the nations of the world have rebelled against God.  In fact they have joined a rebellion of those spiritual beings God had put in charge over them, the sons of God.  So separation into nations was followed by further rebellion and loss of any hope of belonging to God.  Yet, God had not created Israel to be a kind of special “teacher’s pet.”  Rather, through Israel He was launching a plan to take back the nations from the devil and his angels.  The death and resurrection of Jesus is the good news that Christians have for all the nations of the world, even though they have been part of a rebellion against Him.  In fact, even Israel itself was in rebellion to God.  If it were not for Jesus, the plan would not have worked. 

So, does Christian compassion for the lost cancel out nations and borders?  Well in some ways it does, but in other ways it does not.  If we are talking about who can belong to God then nations and borders lose their significance.  People from every tribe, language, and nation on earth will belong to God.  But, that does not mean that Christians are to ignore governments and their laws.

Christian compassion does not cancel out God’s prior judgments

This seems to be the anthem of many.  A true Christian will not respect governments and their borders.  Our Christian compassion must cancel out the nation’s duty to protect its people.  Yet this mentality is not based in Scripture.  The Bible teaches us that God is not taking over the governments of the world through His Church.  Rather, He is calling people from all of these nations to identify with His rule and the Kingdom that He will bring at His second coming.

It is one thing for a Christian individual to participate in government and attempt to bring it into conformity with the righteousness of Jesus.  But the mission of the Church is not to take over governments and rule.  The problem of sin and the flesh stands in the way of any governmental system being perfected.  Even churches run into the problem that no matter how hard we try to run things by God’s Word and by His Spirit, we continually have to deal with sin and flesh cropping up.  Thus a true Christian knows that this is not the time for ruling over the world.  This is the time for ruling over our own sinful nature and bringing it in subjection to the rule of Jesus.  The judgment of all the nations has already been pronounced.  It is our job to save the Rahabs, the Ruths, and the Naaman’s of the world with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Another confusion that exists is the blindness to the fact that if we exercise compassion to an extreme for one, then it leads to lack of compassion for another.  Thus in an extreme attempt to be compassionate towards all “refugees,” we can lose compassion for our own citizens, or even those refugees who need the most help.  Compassion can become a trite phrase that hold as a banner over all manner of evils.  No matter what system of compassion you set up, others will abuse that system because of sin and their evil desires.  This leads us to the real problem.

We cannot live together without laws, and yet we cannot perfect this world with better or more laws.  Our founding fathers understood this.  That is why they created a small framework of laws (i.e. showing restrain, not enamored with the power of legislation, under which men must be free to live out their lives.  But we live in a day that has been seduced by the power of the State.  We see society as a wonderful Petri dish in which we can perfect our social experiments to create Utopia.  Thus we are headed to great tyranny. 

Is it wrong for nations to have immigration laws?  The Bible says nothing against a nation protecting its borders and in fact does state that a government’s proper duty is to protect its citizens from evil.  Thus having good control of one’s border can be a righteous thing.  Does any nation do this perfectly?  No.  So are Christians justified to rebel against the nation’s immigration laws simply because they think the laws are unjust or unfair?  No.  Fair and just laws are not the litmus test given to us in Scripture for righteous, civil disobedience.  Christians are told to obey the government unless it contradicts a direct command of Christ.  Thus in the name of righteousness and compassion, we can be guilty of rebelling against Christ and becoming children of lawlessness.  Yes, Christ will hold nations accountable for how they treat their own citizens and their neighboring nations, etc.  But, He still leaves room for national and individual freedom within His governance because He is not a tyrant.  Our problem is that we allow ourselves to be seduced by the power tyrant who can “fix everything.”

Lastly, there is confusion between individual responsibility and a government’s responsibility before God.  Yes, nations should be compassionate in their governance.  But compassion for others is a command for individuals, not governments.  We can have compassion for potential immigrants and refugees without rebelling against our country’s laws.  If you don’t like them, then work to get them changed in Congress in the proper way and proper spirit.  We can also advocate for getting supplies and safe havens in their originating countries (or ones nearby).  In all things we need to have a humility that recognizes our greatest need is Jesus, not more power in the hands of a smaller group of people.

Nations Borders Audio