One of my theological pet peeves is when people misuse the Bible in order to support their own over other groups. One glaring example is Jeremiah 29:11, which reads:
For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you.
Or there’s 2 Chronicles 7:14, which states:
If my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.
These passages are HIGHLY misused because, even though they were written to and intended for ancient Israel, Americans take them and proclaim them as promises for America. The thought is that America is the new land of promise and God’s instrument in this world.
But it’s complete rubbish.
From a theological standpoint, America is no better than any other country in the world. We are not special. We are not unique. There is certainly no American exceptionalism.
Theologically speaking, of course.
Yet Americans, especially American Christians, CONTINUE to cling to national pride as though being an American meant divine favor. While this may not be true of everyone, all of the “Christians” I know who proudly claim to be nationalists are ALSO racist. They won’t say that. They say “pro-white” as though there is a difference. But being pro-white means you’re anti-anything else. And, quite simply, this nationalistic view is completely contrary to the nature and character of God.
God is the God of ALL nations. God is the God of ALL people groups. This is a lesson that we see in one of my favorite Bible stories – the story of Naaman.
Naaman, commander of the army of the king of Syria, was a great man with his master and in high favor, because by him the Lord had given victory to Syria. He was a mighty man of valor, but he was a leper. 2 Now the Syrians on one of their raids had carried off a little girl from the land of Israel, and she worked in the service of Naaman’s wife. 3 She said to her mistress, “Would that my lord were with the prophet who is in Samaria! He would cure him of his leprosy.” 4 So Naaman went in and told his lord, “Thus and so spoke the girl from the land of Israel.” 5 And the king of Syria said, “Go now, and I will send a letter to the king of Israel.” So he went, taking with him ten talents of silver, six thousand shekels of gold, and ten changes of clothing. 6 And he brought the letter to the king of Israel, which read, “When this letter reaches you, know that I have sent to you Naaman my servant, that you may cure him of his leprosy.” 7 And when the king of Israel read the letter, he tore his clothes and said, “Am I God, to kill and to make alive, that this man sends word to me to cure a man of his leprosy? Only consider, and see how he is seeking a quarrel with me.”
8 But when Elisha the man of God heard that the king of Israel had torn his clothes, he sent to the king, saying, “Why have you torn your clothes? Let him come now to me, that he may know that there is a prophet in Israel.” 9 So Naaman came with his horses and chariots and stood at the door of Elisha’s house. 10 And Elisha sent a messenger to him, saying, “Go and wash in the Jordan seven times, and your flesh shall be restored, and you shall be clean.” 11 But Naaman was angry and went away, saying, “Behold, I thought that he would surely come out to me and stand and call upon the name of the Lord his God, and wave his hand over the place and cure the leper. 12 Are not Abana and Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? Could I not wash in them and be clean?” So he turned and went away in a rage.
Naaman is filled with nationalistic pride. When the prophet tells Naaman to wash in an Israeli river, his immediate response is to question why the rivers in him homeland aren’t better. We see a lot of this attitude in Christians today.
Our way is better. Our way is the good way. God favors our way.
Rubbish. The story of Naaman shows us that God is the God of all. God even cares about this non-Israelite enough to heal him. After Naaman’s servants talk some sense into him, Naaman does as the prophet instructs and is healed! And he realizes that there is only one true God.
Naaman almost missed the biggest blessing in his life because his arrogance and nationalistic pride prevented him from hearing God.
In today’s Western culture, we need to be sure that our nationalistic pride and arrogance has not made us deaf to hear the voice of the Lord. It’s not us vs. them. Our country is not a theologically superior country. God doesn’t love one nation more than any other.
I’m fond of quoting Galatians 3:28 ~
There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.
The human distinctions that separate us are just that – human. There is nothing of God in them. So drop the nationalism and the arrogance. Drop the racism and the sexism. Through our faith we are united. We are one.
We are God’s.