The term Christian nationalism is very much in use in media discussions about American politics
these days. While I find it impossible to discern what people mean by Christian nationalism in
every instance that it is used, the term has problems with both the Biblical and historical ideas
of what it means to be a follower of Christ.
Biblically speaking, a Christian is a person of any ethnic, economic, or citizenship background
who by faith accepts baptism and commits to living a life of obedience to Jesus Christ. There are
instances in Scripture of entire households who become Christian, but there is no concept of
Christianity controlling the apparatus of an earthly government in the New Testament.
In generations following the New Testament, there are stories where not only did individuals
and households become baptized followers of Jesus, but clans and tribes of people collectively
(or at the command of their tribal leader) accept baptism together and declare their entire tribe
to be Christian. When this sort of thing happens on a tribal level, however, there begins to be a
breakdown in what it actually means to be Christian, because there has never been an example
of an entire tribe of people who wholeheartedly embrace lifestyles of obedience to Christ.
Disciples of Jesus are individual people, and tribes of people have always been a mixture of
wheat and tares (to use Jesus’ analogy).
Our modern world is made us of nation-states (like the various countries of Europe) and
empires (collections of states and ethnic groups such as the United States). These political
entities are so large that applying the term Christian to any of them is incompatible. The closest
political entity in the Bible to which we could compare the United States is the Roman Empire,
and this is precisely the structure under which the Christians in Asia Minor were living when
Peter wrote to them.
Like the sojourners or Peter’s day, we should never be under the illusion that we can somehow
“Christianize” an entire empire. This has never happened in the history of the world and will not
happen until Jesus himself sits on the throne as King. So how can we influence the community
around us which does not embrace Jesus as Lord? This is the question Peter is answering for the
1 Peter 2:11-17
We could easily find political applications of this passage in 1 Peter to our lives. If your group
finds this as a good way to inform political discussion, that is great. But the most relevant
application comes to how we live our everyday lives.
In his sermon on this passage, Austin gives us four instructions on how to lives as sojourners
and exiles in the world.
1) Don’t surrender to the passions of the flesh. (v. 11)
2) Let your conduct shine brighter than the criticism of others. (v. 12)
3) Obey the laws of man. (v. 13-15)
4) Live with integrity/character. (v. 16-17)
- Why do you think abstaining from the passions of the flesh is the first command in this
passage? (v. 11)
- What are the most pressing and tempting “passions of the flesh” from which we have
to abstain today?
- How does Peter say Christians should counter slander from outsiders? (v. 12)
- Have you ever seen Peter’s prescription for countering slander work?
- How does a person move from being a critic of Christians to being one who gives glory
- What is the appropriate role for government? (v. 14)
- How can we understand government as legitimately bearing the authority of God?
- Why does Peter say we should submit to government?
- How can Christians do a better job of giving submission and honor to God’s servants in
- Why does Christian freedom lead to disciplined living instead of lawlessness? (v. 16-