Will the People and the Nation Save Us?
Are you a Christian? You're a citizen too. And as such, I suppose you care at least a little about the fate of your country, Europe or the world. Maybe all three at the same time.
For a good decade now, our news, particularly in the West but also elsewhere in the world, has been grappling with crises, tensions and deep questions about the identity of our various nations. In the background remains the idea that we will have the solution to many of our problems when we are clear about our national identity: we will know better who we are and how to live. The nation can save us. But why this idea? And is it true?
The early Christians were unique in that their confession of faith was also seen as a form of political protest. If you were to ask "Who is Lord and Savior?" in a vox-pop in the Roman Empire, most would have answered: Caesar, the head of state, head of the armies, also known as "Augustus", meaning "the greatest, the glorious, the divine". Thus, the Christian message attributes to Jesus, a humble construction worker from Palestine, the title belonging to the almighty Caesar. Consequently, their supreme allegiance was no longer to the state embodied in the person of Caesar, but to Jesus himself. The Christians rejected all state claims to glory and supremacy and asserted their complete freedom before it. Persecutions ensued, as we know.
Jesus' message questions us and warns us radically about what we trust. The Apostle Paul understood this in a speech to the philosophers of Athens (Acts 17), explaining that we must not think of the divinity as being like those things "sculpted by art and the imagination of mankind". The problem with idols ─ whether they are marble statues that troubled Paul, or today more abstract but equally real ideas and values such as the concept of nationhood, or stability, success, achievement, economic growth or whatever ─ is that they take on a divine character in our hearts. They occupy a place that is not theirs and we expect things from these idols that they cannot provide for us. As such, they are not worthy of our trust, but we center our lives around these idols as if they were!
God knows all this; the paths of perdition are the paths of trust in these great things that are still "sculpted by human art and imagination". He has given us "a trustworthy proof": Jesus, his person, his life, his teaching, his death and resurrection.
We have much to learn, much to gain, and much to redeem in our lives if we allow ourselves to be raptured by Jesus, the only one truly trustworthy because he was authenticated by God himself. Rather than allowing ourselves to be captivated by the idols of Self-Sufficiency, the Nation or other goddesses in the pantheon, Jesus asks us to identify with him. To be one with him; to melt our identity in him into his, to better find our own, because it is by being one with him that we can base our life on the most solid foundations possible.
No, the nation and the people cannot save us. But if, like God, we care about the fate of our nations, our peoples and human beings in general, let us change our orientation: let us come out of the illusion and dedicate our lives to being schooled by Jesus. It is in him that we will be able to draw the resources to be ourselves at the service of the common good.