1. A Nationalist’s Question
A well-known personality in India, a nationalist, was touring a village in India (on live TV) where he met a gathering of Christian families and demanded to know if their religion is more important to them, or if the nation (India) is more important. His audience were baffled, not knowing how to answer the aggressive questioning. How are we to answer such a question?
1.1. A Matter of Gratitude/Values
The nation and many fellow citizens are sacrificing to protect us against the enemies who want to destroy/exploit, to provide livelihood, justice, freedom, dignity, rights, etc (especially in democratic nations with benign constitutions and rule of law, like India). To take part in it and responsibly play our role in such nation-building is a matter of basic human gratitude/values. But what is the source and reason for such responsibility?
1.2. Self-Love or Love for Others
Sometimes a good value or cause is pursued for the wrong reasons or degenerates into exploiting people in the name of the cause for self-serving reasons. In other words, even in pursuit of a good cause, one may be driven by self-love rather than love for others.
1.3. In the Name of Religion Too
This happens in the name of religion all the time. Many religious leaders and many who call themselves as “pastors” may be exploiting people in the name of simple but genuine faith of followers – asking for their money, demanding respect, etc. Their love for religion is driven by how well an institutional religion is serving them rather than a genuine desire to love/serve others. If the so-called post-Christian era somehow gets rid of such religious exploitation and abuse of authority in the church and brings forth true followers of Jesus, that would be a welcome development. Jesus fought against the Pharisees of his time. We have to do the same against such religious leaders and pastors.
2. Response to the Nationalist
Back to the question asked by the Indian nationalist on TV. The answer I think is that the right source of proper, true, selfless love and responsibility towards the nation is God’s command to love people, to have gratitude, to be responsible, to protect, empower, etc. If not, there is a danger of degenerating into being driven by self-serving interests, just exploiting nationalism as a cause to draw people. In other words, God is the very source of proper and genuine self-less love/gratitude for the nation – it is not a question of one against the other. That may have been my response to the nationalist. Even in a malignant dictatorship, one has a responsibility to work towards proper nation-building that administers justice and empowers people.
3. Right Source, Right Love
Similar question with respect to the biological family too. Questions could be asked whether faith is more important or family or nation etc. God is the source of true selfless love for all these. If not, it can easily fall into the trap of one’s mission changing into self-serving purposes. Jesus said in Luke:8:21 (also in Matthew 12:46-50) when his biological mother and brothers came to talk to him: “Who is My mother and who are My brothers?… whoever does the will of My Father in heaven is My brother and sister and mother”.
Jesus was not dismissing his biological family, but he was rather using the context to point to the source which should be the basis and source of true and proper love and values. If God is not the source of love for family, it will degenerate into a family and children with negative values – arrogant, egoistic, selfish, entitled, and of negative value in the kingdom of God. So let us first get the source right, and everything else follows in their proper place.