And the devil took him up, and showed him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time, and said to him, “To you I will give all this authority and their glory; for it has been delivered to me, and I give it to whom I will. If you, then, will worship me, it shall all be yours.” And Jesus answered him, “It is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God, and him only shall you serve.’” (Luke 4:5-8)
One reason why nationalism might never be a Christian virtue is the above exchange between Satan and Jesus. Satan claimed all kingdoms of the world belonged to him – and thus all nationalism is his as well. Indeed, Christians who embrace nationalistic ideas are making a bargain with the devil. Jesus resisted any temptation for worldly power – not only did He reject any one kingdom or nation, He also rejected power in and through any and all of them. His interest was in the heavenly Kingdom, not in any one earthly one. Christians of every nation should keep that in mind for all kingdoms/nations will pass away including the ones we now live in (Mark 13:31; 1 Corinthians 2:6). Even the most powerful of worldly nations/kingdoms will pass away, unlike the Kingdom of God which will last forever (Daniel 7:14). Christ calls us to serve not that which is temporary, but that which is eternal.
St Nikolai Velimirovic points out only God’s Kingdom is everlasting – all other nations and kingdoms will come to an end, even ones that exist today.
In a church in Syria founded by the Emperor Justinian, there is an inscription that the emperor himself ordered to be placed there, and that remains to this day: ‘Thy Kingdom is an everlasting Kingdom’ (Psalm 144 \ 145:13). May the Lord help us to make these words our own, to be the expression of our yearning for Christ in our hearts. All else is secondary and unimportant. All other kingdoms on earth will come to the grave and the worm. And when the world and earthly kingdoms are no more, the righteous will sing in heaven with the angels: ‘Thy Kingdom, O Christ our God, is an everlasting Kingdom, and Thy dominion endureth throughout all ages.’ And so may glory and praise be to the most wondrous Teacher under the sun, to Christ our God, together with God the Father and God the Holy Spirit—the Trinity consubstantial and undivided, now and forever, through all time and all eternity. Amen (HOMILIES Vol 2, p 30-31)
Those who want to make their nation first, have to deny Christ who commanded us to seek God’s Kingdom first (Matthew 6:33). And it can’t even be God and country on equal terms for Christ also told us that we cannot serve God and mammon (money, nation, whatever – Matthew 6:24). We have to make a clear choice about what our priority is. We are to love God with all our soul, heart, mind and strength, and in that love for God we can love our nation in a godly way, but we are never to make an idol of it or put the nation ahead of our discipleship to Christ whose Kingdom is the only eternal one. We are to do what is good for God’s kingdom- our relationship to our nation is to fall within that bigger picture of loving God and loving neighbor.
Long ago you laid the foundation of the earth,
and the heavens are the work of your hands.
They will perish, but you endure;
they will all wear out like a garment.
You change them like clothing, and they pass away;
but you are the same, and your years have no end.