We are back to our regular episodes after celebrating our anniversary! Having celebrated Independence Day last month and as we approach Philippine elections again, we take this time to talk about patriotism in this episode.
Over the past few months, it is very noticeable how our young people are so involved in social discourse and expressing their political views. Because of this, we are anticipating an increase in the temperature of our political climate. Hence, we take this time to talk about patriotism.
Patriotism – love for one’s country or national pride, which forms alliance and oneness as one race and blood.
As Filipinos, we have a very rich history of patriotism from fighting different colonizers in different eras. Patriotism is deeply embedded in our collective psyche as one race.
Patriotism was inculcated in me because of the celebration of “Buwan ng Wika”. It was our school teachers who taught us about loving our country. I even remember wearing “bahag” during a school event that celebrates patriotism.
Based on my knowledge of practical theology, I’ve observed that wherever the nation God places us, whether by birth, ekballo (sent because of a need) or apostello (volunteered to be sent for a mission), that’s our place of calling to be salt and light. Also, based on Old and New Testament narratives, it’s very clear that we have a calling wherever God places us.
It starts with the tribal calling of God for people of Israel, when He calls them to get out from Egypt’s slavery. The real root of this is first, the mission of God, and at the same time, the value that God placed in us as stated in Genesis 1:27:
So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.
God never desires for his people to be under oppression and injustice, and that is the reason why He sent His son, Jesus Christ, to die for our sins so that we could be brought out of the oppression of sin. While there are still many broken parts of this world and oppression keeps going on, when we look to Jesus, we realize that He is actually a Savior and a Master who desires to get us out of that oppression and injustice. While there’s still brokenness in the world, at the most, when we run to Jesus, and realize the resurrection power that we have in Him, we’re not bound to the oppression of this world, because in Him, we‘ve become free and given victory over all these things. Our hope and prayer is that while He has given us shalom, we become “shalom-makers” also; we become soldiers also of this victory that He has given us.
Patriotism in the Bible is the love for God that allows us to love our nation.
Patriotism is not so apparent or obviously seen when I read my Bible. There is no written biblical record that says, “love your nation”. But before we enter the route of answering yes or no to the question of its biblicality, we must dig deeper and look at the general picture of God’s plan. It takes a little more effort of digging into the Scripture for us to realize how patriotism is defined in the Bible, as alluded already by Job.
Another verse that helped me is a very infamous verse which is Jeremiah 29:11. When we look at the whole chapter, God was commanding the nation of Israel to build in the nation of Babylon, the very nation that conquered them. It must have been nerve-racking and overwhelming to seek the welfare of the nation that conquered you. We talked about being called to be a blessing to wherever God has called us to be and there is this tension. However, we see here another expression of loving others in lieu of a nation.
Patriotism is a good virtue that has been inculcated in us since childhood as we grew up. We can all agree that we are called to love our nation as it is our inheritance, so we are to ensure and guarantee its welfare. But what we want to know is where this is coming from. What’s our basis?
As Christians, our worldview should be shaped by the Scriptures. Our worldview should be a biblical worldview, which means filtered by the truth of the Scriptures. Therefore, where is patriotism in the Bible?
As what Job already explained, it springs out from God’s original design. When God created us, He placed an inherent value in us as human beings, created in the image and the likeness of God. Also, God placed us in a specific location to cultivate as Adam was placed in the garden of Eden to work in it and to keep it. Therefore, in the same way, we have first, human dignity and second, specific placement according to God’s design and will. We were placed in the nation we are in to cultivate the land, to enrich it, to add value and to uphold human welfare, because every citizen of the nation is created in the image and likeness of God so they are valuable. This is why we protect human rights, fight for the rights of the poor, helpless and needy. Looking out for our fellow citizens is also part of us being patriotic. In the end, patriotism is all about the expression of loving God and loving others expressed in the way we love our nation because it’s our inheritance.
What we hear sounds simple. In our national anthem, we have this part which says, “ang mamatay ng dahil sayo”, and the reason why we are able to do this is because we seek the welfare of our nation and at the same time, we know that we are made like this. This is another thing that we should have because sometimes, we envy other nations whether it be economic status, standards of living, or sometimes how they look but this is a whole new different topic.
When we fully embrace the identity God has given us, including our race and ethnicity, wherever the nation God has placed us to be, that is also an expression of love for God even though we could have thoughts of changing our nationality or citizenship (which is another topic altogether). This should not put down other people as we do this out of love for God.
When we become Christians or Bible believers, we will have a broader perspective and different view of patriotism. The meaning of “ang mamatay ng dahil sayo” in our national anthem becomes way more different compared to how we used to sing it. If you used to sing it while you are not Christian, and it didn’t mean anything to you, then, there’s something wrong. If you used to sing it with a sense of value and identity, where this line comes from is the reason why you will die for the Philippines is because this is my value and identity. This is the usual view of what patriotism is. There is nothing wrong with this if you don’t know who Jesus is.
However, when you start knowing Jesus and following him, “ang mamatay nang dahil sayo” for the Philippines, should actually mean more than that already. You don’t die for the Philippines anymore because this is where your value and identity comes from. Now, you already know that your value and identity comes from Jesus Christ and that’s who you are. The reason why you’re gonna die for your country is because you are willing to die for Jesus. When there is something that is happening with your country and justice and shalom, the wholeness of Jesus, has to be expressed through the love for country and dying for the country, then that’s the time we can say, “Mamamatay ako para sa Pilipinas” because they have to see the love of Jesus Christ.
So this becomes a whole lot of different branches in terms of meaning, when we become followers of Jesus Christ. Simply put, it is about kingdom over nation, the kingdom of God over the country you are part of, which widens our view and Jesus becomes a real Master over where we are and our expression of love to God is only an overflow to our nation because we love God first before our nation.
Once we become followers of Jesus, those who are really patriotic back in the days before they knew Jesus, there is more to patriotism to these people than the ordinary people who were not really patriotic before they have become Christians. A patriot becoming a Christian does not stop being a patriot but is expected to become more patriotic with a different core, Jesus Christ, not anymore coming from pain and self-preservation. Now, you are coming from the desire to bring the wholeness of God to this nation. It’s not “makibaka” anymore, it’s more of love.
“Makabayan” means “for the nation” which translates to service, especially when we get the mindset that at the end of it, we are willing to die for someone or something that we truly serve. At the end of it, the question is, who is our ultimate Master? This also shifts our heart in a sense that when we say “makabayan”, I’m serving my nation because this is my expression of love for Jesus. It takes a whole different picture, a whole different worldview. All the more we want to think of creative ways to show our care and our love for our fellow citizens because we have settled already that we are fully loved by God.
I can relate to what Job was saying because I consider myself a “makabayan” person. When I was in college, the president was former president Arroyo and during those times, there were many allegations of corruption and extrajudicial killings. Since I was a journalist during that time, fighting for my nation, fighting for the oppressed, being the voice to the voiceless, is very strong in my heart.
The reason why I dreamed of being a journalist is because I wanted to write and expose corruption in government, to hold powerful people accountable and to express the sentiments of our fellow citizens. When I got discipled, there was a shift in the way that I think about all these things. I wanted to be a journalist then, but God shifted my heart to His will for my life.
I’m a campus missionary now and I realized that the change I was longing for, the national and societal transformation I wanted to see in the nation, that while we honor freedom fighters, democracy fighters and those who speak up, my lot or charge from God is not just to write about it but also to root out sin and evil in the hearts of people, to train people in godliness, to introduce them to Jesus Christ so that transformation will happen from within, not just societal transformation brought about by legislating Christian virtues.
Patriotism is not for everyone. In a non-Christian world, only a few are “makabayan” who are really willing to fight for the nation and its anatomy can be seen in the student government. Time and time again, the low voting turnout for student council elections has always been the problem of universities and colleges, even high schools. This small playing field shows us that a lot does not care about voting, a lot does not have a sense of being part of it and devotion to the school. This is reflected in how this is being done in our nation.
For the listeners who are not patriotic and would want to stop listening to this because of this reason, but you are a Christian, if you have become a follower of Jesus and you haven’t been “makabayan” at all in the past, all the more that you become “makabayan” or patriotic when you follow Jesus Christ. Though you don’t become like those people during the time of Caesar at Rome, but you become a fighter of God’s cause so you become involved in the causes that God is doing in the nation that he places you in. If you are not “makabayan” before but when you really love Jesus Christ, you will automatically become “makabayan” and that’s coming from your heart of being salt and light because you can’t help but share about the work of Jesus in your nation. Our realm changes when we become followers of Jesus.
We are now fueled by compassion, not anger. Indignation towards injustice is good and we also honor that. If you are not “makabayan” before but you experienced the love of God and understood the love of God for the world and for everyone and the value of human dignity, this fuels our passion to serve the country and other people because you also feel the compassion of God for people that also flows in your heart for them.
The love for the nation is fueled because of our image of God and of our love for God and for other people. We are now in a posture of compassion and service. Wherever we were before we became a Christian, patriotic or not, the question is, “How can we express our love for the welfare of our nation?”
We can observe this clash on social media where those who are more vocal are calling out those who are not by saying that they are condoning injustice by being silent. How do we balance this tension?
We can converse and theologize this together among people in our victory groups and with friends in our youth service also. For this question, I want to answer this with this verse in Matthew 28:18-20, which is the Great Commission that applies to all of us:
“And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
If we cannot understand each other’s differences in our expressions, this verse is one definite expression that God wants us to do for the nation. For someone who is already used to our culture in the Christian world, it’s so easy to actually say that our way of loving our nation is making disciples. To so many patriots who already became Christian, it sounds like a shortcut but we should also consider that even if it was said that way, it does not mean it has lost its essence. I am sorry if your perception of this is reduced to being only a shortcut. However, this is the ultimate expression of how we can love for our nation.
Making disciples is not a “yun na lang”. We have to see the power of how a transformed life, one person at a time, actually contributes to nation building. What if I’m discipling someone who’s actually going to become the president of the Philippines and missed out on the chance because I did not believe in the conviction that there is power in making disciples and that’s actually contributing to nation building? I’m all the more convinced that it’s still “the way” to be part of nation-building but at the same time, as Christian, we should not belittle the other things that need to be done.
Whatever we do to express our love for our nation, as long as it is also under the authority that God has given us, which is God-given authority of the government, then we’re still okay voicing out our concerns. It’s part of the given privileges of the authority God has given us since in the Philippines, we can raise our concerns. These are the things that we need to cross reference with what the Lord says in the Bible and the privileges given to us by the government we are placed by God. We are to see them together and ask what we can do to these tied privileges and roles that we can do to express my love for the nation.
The last thing we want to happen is to become less of a Christian because of the way we express our love for the nation. However, it’s each to his own when it comes to this area so if we see someone who has a bad expression, let’s not throw rocks at them since the Bible is also clear when it says that we should stop to look at the blots of other people. Let’s focus on our own blots and see how we can become more of a Christ follower than just by comparing with others.
Going back to what was mentioned earlier about “kingdom over nation”, we must consider that in our responses to our current situation in the society, our kingdom citizenship must be over our natural citizenship and this should shape our responses.
One example of this is when we see that our expression of patriotism is different from others, let’s check our hearts first before giving a response which comes from a position of anxiety. When we are mindful of our kingdom citizenship, we can frame our responses to come from a point of faith, hope, love and compassion for each other.
I hope our listeners will be able to imagine what can happen months from now, when every candidate would start campaigning once again, every person will decide who they will follow, who they will support based on their biblical conviction. Obviously, this will produce a variety of opinions and expressions. Let’s face and accept the fact that there are people, including our family and loved ones, who would have different views from our views. Never compromise the Lordship of Jesus Christ over anything else and let’s not use our love for our nation as an excuse to hurt other people.
There will really be tensions in the next few months and even among Christians, what could happen is the label of being a Christian disappears and only being a Filipino remains. This is why we have to remember that we are citizens of God’s kingdom.
I want to leave with saying that Isaiah 1:17 could be a framework when we check ourselves in the next few months:
Learn to do good. Seek justice. Help the oppressed. Defend the cause of orphans. Fight for the rights of widows.
You might vote coming from this motive, that as a Christian I will learn to do good, seek justice, help the oppressed, defend the cause of orphans and fight for the rights of widows, that’s why I will vote. So for the next few months if you see other people voting for someone else, rooting for someone else, ask yourself, “Is the way I respond to this person, learning to do good? Is it expressing the wholeness of God when I reply to this person?”
It could be that we are voting for someone because we want to bring shalom and the wholeness of Jesus Christ but our responses in little things and to other people do not give shalom and wholeness, our voting would not make any sense because our relationships are being destroyed. As Christians, we should be mindful of our responses to people.
In summary, love for our country is an expression of our love for God, as also stated in John 3:16:
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.
Part of this world that God loved is our nation. Therefore, because God loves the Philippines, we love it as well, not just the citizens but even our natural resources so we are to take care of it. Patriotism isn’t always political, it is also in the sphere of taking care of the environment and praying for the welfare of our nation.
Patriotism should not fall into the ditch of idolatry of the nation because the design and will of God is for people from every nation to come together under the kingdom or rulership of Jesus Christ. The danger of obsessive love for the nation is racial supremacy over other races, which we have seen in the pitfalls of history to have resulted in wars and conflicts between different nations.
Patriotism is more rooted in bringing shalom and wholeness to a broken nation, to its broken people. We, Christians, are the agents of wholeness in this world by advancing the kingdom of God, by preaching the gospel, by introducing them to Christ, making them obedient and submissive to the Lordship of Christ.
We have been accused that what we only do is pray because we are only kingdom citizens, but we are Filipino citizens also so we have a role to play. Our citizenship intersects in the way we show our love for the least of the society by helping the poor however we can, in the way we speak life, instead of cursing and hating people we love them, instead of shaming people we honor them.
We are the salt and light of the world so we should show this also in the way we fight for our causes, in speaking for those who cannot speak, in acting justly, in having mercy for the oppressed, and also in praying for those who are in authority.
Our expression of nationalism and patriotism as Christians should be defined and filtered by the values of the kingdom that we belong, the kingdom of Jesus Christ.
Today on Campus is hosted by Dave Estrera and Jello de los Reyes. In this episode, they are joined by Pastor Job Wahiman, a pastor and campus missionary from Every Nation Campus Fort.
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