This week we have been studying the rise and fall of great powers, because we learned about the fall of Egypt as prophesied by Ezekiel in Ezekiel 29-32. In the previous post, we learned that in recent history, the rise and fall of great powers is controlled by economics. So we have to ask, what about God? Isn’t God involved? Does God decide which nations rise and which fall? Does God want some nations to be great and others lowly? What should we Christians think about this?
Remember the prophecy to Egypt in Ezekiel. Their nation had been a regional superpower for centuries. Now God declares that Egypt was going to fall, and it would not be great again.
I write as an American, and much of what I have thought about Ezekiel 29-32 this week has clearly been colored by my context as an American. Christians in America have long had a somewhat confused understanding of the relationship between God and country. What we see in this passage is that God desires to be in relationship with all people. He is not interested in the rise and fall of great powers. He is interested in people. Nations come and nations go. America rose and became a superpower, and it is possible that America will fall from that place, maybe in our lifetime, maybe a thousand years from now. Maybe all that potentially scary news about China (which I started this week’s blog series with here) will come to pass and they will attack and defeat us. We don’t know, of course.
In the Old Testament, God often talks about nations and their longevity. We Americans can think that we want our preferred version of America to last forever. Usually the version of America that we want to last forever is the version that benefits us. But does God promise that any version of America will last forever? No. Instead there is a rise and fall of nations throughout history. That is par for the course of world history. What, then, is the Christian way to look at our citizenship in America?
To answer that question, we need to jump over to the New Testament where we learn that we Christians see ourselves first and foremost as citizens of the Kingdom of Heaven. Our earthly citizenship is temporary, because every earthly country is temporary. Even if USA doesn’t end in our lifetime, it will happen sometime. But God’s Kingdom will never fall. God’s Kingdom is eternal.
Christians, therefore, should be focused on the Kingdom of God. Our lives, our choices, our actions, should be to glorify Jesus and follow the pattern of life that he lived. There were Christians living through all of the 1700 years before America was born. Those Christians were disciples of Jesus, pursuing the mission of God’s Kingdom all around the world, and they did that without an entity called the United States of America. How? Because God’s Kingdom isn’t dependent on any nation.
But we are citizens of an earthly country. I am an American citizen. For my fellow American Christians, what does it mean, then, to think Christianly about our citizenship in America? For those of you who are citizens in other countries, you can ask yourselves the same question. What does it mean to think Christianly about citizenship in your country? I have written about this in a previous blog series, staring here. But I also recommend that we strive to answer these important questions by remembering the perspective of God’s Kingdom.
We should want God’s Kingdom to come all around us. Just as Jesus prayed: “Thy Kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” We Christians, then, not only pray for God’s Kingdom to come wherever we live, but we also participate in ushering in the Kingdom. When I say “usher in the Kingdom,” I am not talking about the goals of any political party. Remember the Purple Church series a few months ago? Jesus is neither red nor blue. The church should be neither red nor blue. The church should be purple, a place where people who lean red or blue can mix together focusing on God and making his Kingdom our priority.
We’re a purple church because God doesn’t want to be in relationship with a temporary nation. He wants to be in relationship with people. That’s why God’s Old Covenant was with the nation of Israel, but his New Covenant is with the church. God is in relationship with his people, the church. Our hearts, our goals, our decisions should flow from that perspective.
We, the church, then, strive to fulfill the mission of the Kingdom, no matter what country in which we hold earthly citizenship. As we live in those countries, we desire to fulfill the Great Command and the Great Commission. We also desire those nations to be places of goodness and human flourishing. That’s why we Christians take the lead in pursuing equality, freedom, and justice, no matter where we live. That means we should be active in rooting out injustice. We follow the teaching of Jesus to love God, love neighbor, and help people become disciples of Jesus who can live the way of Jesus. We are people who are filled with the Spirit, so that the fruit of the Spirit is flowing freely from us into the lives of others around us.
Our hope is not in a political party. Our hope is not in a geographic region on the globe. Our hope is not in a form of government. Our hope is not to make a nation great again. Our hope is in the Lord. Our passion is to make his name great.
As the Jews in Babylon learned from Ezekiel’s prophetic oracles about Egypt, God desired a relationship with all people, even those who were enemies of Israel. God wants to be known by all. That should be our heart too. As our hearts are more like God’s heart, then geography, nationality, ethnicity matters less, and people matter more.