Loving Your Nation Is Not Against Christianity

By Charles Jacobi

by Danielle Dolin

When I was first converted, I supposed that every facet of my life ought to be spiritualized. My relationships, the way I understood my country, family-bonds, et cetera. Anything that had its grounding in nature or “this world” I immediately viewed as less important than “spiritual” realities. For example, I was quick to think that my familial and cultural bonds with my fellow Americans were less important than my spiritual bonds with Christians located thousands of miles away. Or, at least, I should love them in the same way as I love my father, mother, close friends, and countrymen at large. Spiritual bonds were the only bonds that mattered in my mind. I am inclined to think that many young converts still think this way given that, largely, Evangelicals are unaware of their historical footing. Protestant thinkers of old have written much on love, natural bonds, and nationhood. After a cursory reading of the early Protestants—commonly referred to as the magisterial Reformers—one will immediately find they rejected the hyper-spiritualization I once operated in. The general skepticism towards prioritizing one’s natural bonds which is so prevalent in modern Evangelicalism today had no founding in our history.


Early Protestants relied heavily on what is called “Natural Theology”, meaning, religious knowledge that can be gathered from human reason (and independent of special revelation, i.e. holy scripture). Thus, Natural Theology purports that truth can be derived from observing the way God has ordered the natural world, and we are able to come to right and moral conclusions. According to a majority of the early Protestants, it was actually one’s natural bonds (bonds of family, cultural, society, and nation) that had a God-ordained priority in our lives. This notion flows from using Natural Theology, which obviously seats our natural affections towards people closest to us as good, right, and morally innocent. Saving much nuance, the early Protestant writers would describe “loving your nation” as loving those within your midst the most, rippling that love outward towards those within your community, your society, and then your country.

John Calvin, one of the earliest Reformers, says the following in his Institutes of The Christian Religion, “I deny not that the closer the relationship the more frequent our offices of kindness should be. For the condition of humanity requires that there be more duties in common between those who are more nearly connected by the ties of the relationship, or friendship, or neighborhood. And this is done without any offense to God, by whose providence we are in a manner impelled to do it.”

That’s some strong language from the theologian. Yes, we are impelled to extend our special love towards those who God has providentially placed us in proximity to. Why else has God structured humanity so that distinct families, societies, cultures, and nations form rather than one inseparable conglomerate? Does God really intend that our warmest loves be in lieu of the means to express it fully? This would be true if God finds fault in a natural ordo amoris, an ordering of human affection. It is difficult to grasp how these ideas are at odds with the Christian religion when God has commanded us to “Love your father and your mother”, a commandment that is grounded in a natural bond. Moreover, Paul the Apostle expresses his deep affections for “his kinsman according to the flesh”. Even God Himself retained a special people for Himself: Old Testament Israel.

Consequently, these natural bonds form nations, nations that are composed of people who are alike in ways that extend beyond natural bonds to cultural, proximal, and geographic bonds. C.S. Lewis puts it elegantly, “I think love for one’s country means chiefly love for people who have a good deal in common with oneself … and is in that way like love of one’s family or school: or like love for anyone who once lived in one’s home town.

If our Lord is not at odds with Lewis, then our nation—and the people making up that nation—should enjoy the luxury of our special love. We can love those within our nation and country the most tenderly, and most effectively. All of this is not to say that we should be found without a spirit of charity for all mankind, and especially fellow believers, but it is to say that such a truth does not diminish our natural love for our family, friends, society, and nation.

Charles Jacobi is the managing editor of Moonshine & Magnolias. His writing has appeared in American Reformer, Theopolis Institute, Kuyperian Commentary, and Providence Magazine. You can follow him on X at @cholinergik.

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