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Reflections of a Lay Pastor:  October 13th 2019: Patriots and Nationalists

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Reflections of a Lay Pastor:  October 13th 2019: Patriots and Nationalists

Jeremiah (chapter 29) had no time for national borders:  “Make yourselves at home there and work for the country’s welfare.  Pray for Babylon’s well-being.  If things go well for Babylon, things will go well for you.”  As far as he was concerned, we should blossom where we are planted, whether in our ancestral country or in exile.  His message reminds me of the wonderful “Anthem” from the musical “Chess” by Tim Rice, Benny Andersson and Björn Ulvaeus.  The song describes in emotional terms the feelings of the defecting chess master, Anatoly Sergievsky, towards his native Russia as he leaves:  “Its only borders lie around my heart”.  Listen to the whole stirring anthem, it is wonderful.

Jesus, too, had little time for nationalism.  As Clemenceau said: “A patriot is someone who loves his country, a nationalist is someone who hates everyone else’s.”  Jesus made clear that he had no time for either patriotism or nationalism.  His loyalty was to His God-given mission, not to a country.  He rejected the hatred of Samaritans that pervaded Jewish society at the time.  It can’t have made Him popular with a whole swathe of the religious establishment.  In Luke 17: 17-19 Jesus said to the healed leper who returned to give thanks: “Were not ten healed? Where are the nine? Can none be found to come back and give glory to God except this outsider?”  Then he said to him, “Get up. On your way.   Your faith has healed and saved you.”

What can we learn from these scriptures?  We have many “foreigners” in our Country, some from the EU, some from further afield.  How do we set about welcoming them?  How do we help them feel at home here?  What is our church doing in this respect?  In the present climate of vituperation and stirred-up fear, our Country has greater need than ever before of Christian love expressed towards those who were not born here, whatever their beliefs, whatever their eating habits, whatever their choice of dress.  Hatred and suspicion are easy and cheap, loving and caring are a bit harder.

Going back a few generations, a very popular TV activity, we can wonder “Who am I?”  When we realize that our ancestry may include illegal immigrants, work-house dwellers, slaves and slave-owners, we realize that we are a mongrel country.  If we divide the country into two:  on one side, people who take chances, who are willing to step outside their comfort zone;  on the other, people who prefer the status quo:  we see our Country as maybe Australians or Canadians see us.  We are the ones who chose to stay at home rather than branch out;  no wonder we are beginning to resent incomers.

We must fight nationalism at every turn, in the name of Jesus.  Nationalism is no place for a Christian to stand.  Read the Bible and find a different answer if you can.

About the Author:

Mervyn has worked as an engineer, as a teacher and headteacher in comprehensive schools, as a university lecturer and latterly as a dry-stone waller, and lay pastor of the church. He also serves as Eco Officer. His hobbies include walking and he leads holidays in Italy and here in the UK, especially holidays for families. He has been a local preacher in the Methodist Church for fifty years and has been riding motorbikes for slightly longer. He is married to the girl of his dreams and has several children and grandchildren of whom he is inordinately proud.

One Comment

  1. David October 13, 2019 at 8:08 am - Reply

    You have taken Jeremiahs comment out of context, the jews had been carried off into a distant land because they had been disobedient to God. Jeremiah was saying the people will be there 70 years before being allowed to leave by the future king.
    If you go back to the Tower of Babel incident, God confuses their languages to make them into Nations. God doesn’t want a one world state, that will take place in the 7 year tribulation as a punishment on this unrepentent world.
    Your sentiment about helping foreigners is welcomed, it is just how you argue your case for it, is flawed. Nations are what God wanted, I’m not saying that as a Brexiteer either, you can still be a nation and trade with the world. Let’s just stay biblical please and avoid using the bible to say what we want it to say to suit our own arguments. Let the bible speak for itself.

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