When I read through the Psalms, I am struck by the number of times that the writer refers to the Lord as the God of the nations. For instance, consider a selected reading from the 47th Psalm:
Clap your hands, all you nations; Shout to God with cries of joy.
How awesome is the Lord Most Hight, the great King over all the earth!
He subdued nations under us, peoples under our feet.
God reigns over the nations; God is seated on His holy throne.
The kings of the earth belong to God; He is greatly exalted.
In particular, notice the relationship between verse 3 (“He subdued nations under us, peoples under our feet”) and verse 8 (“God reigns over all the nations”).
When we read the Psalm through our own national lense, when we see ourselves as a nation blessed by God, a nation founded by people who wanted a place to worship Him freely, a nation that “subdued other nations” to gain our freedom and prosperity, it forces us to struggle with the tension between patriotism (or nationalism) and the Kingdom of God. On one hand, I am proud to be an American. I am grateful to live in a land where we can worship Jesus freely, where the government isf “of the people, by the people, and for the people.” I am grateful to live in the most peaceful, prosperous corner of the world. I am grateful to those who sacrificed their lives so that this nation may be what it is today. I want to defend, support, and proudly wave the flag of my country.
But there is also a Kingdom person within me who knows that I am an alien in this world (1 Peter 2.11), a stranger in a foreign land, a pilgrim looking for a city whose architect and builder is God (Hebrews 11.10). This Kingdom person knows that my vision must be larger than just “my country” because the King reigns over all the earth. The Lord reigns over the refugees in Thailand. The Lord reigns over the suffering in Darfur. The Lord reigns over the ruins in Mayanmar. The Lord even reigns in Iran and India. God reigns over the nations.
So, can a Kingdom person rejoice when our nation prospers while the rest of the world suffers? Can a Kingdom person live with a “my nation, right or wrong” mentality? Can a Kingdom person retreat within the peace and prosperity of our own nation without grieving over the hurt in the rest of the earth?
Sadly, even though I have been a follower of Christ for many years, I am just now beginning to truly wrestle with this tension. “Lord, please help me to understand how to be a follower of Christ, supporting the nation in which I live and supporting the God who reigns over that nations.”