14 Mar The True Patriot
Nationalism is on the rise globally for various reasons. A Nationalist is a person who strongly identifies with his or her own nation and vigorously supports its interests. But are they real patriots?
“The difference between Patriotism and Nationalism is that the patriot is proud of his country for what it does and the nationalist is proud of his country no matter what it does; the first attitude creates a feeling of responsibility, but the second a feeling of blind arrogance that leads to war”- Sydney J Harris
Let’s look at someone who was a true patriot and who did a lot for his country. He was living in a foreign land in an esteemed position. Having won the confidence of a foreign king, he became one of his personal attendants. Even as he was well settled, he did not forget the people he came from. When he learnt that their city was in ruins and that they were in great trouble and disgrace, he was moved.
Nehemiah, conscious of his limitations to the herculean task of repairing the ruins, immediately jumped into action – not in haste but by approaching the God of heaven who is concerned about His people in Jerusalem. Jerusalem is a far-off place governed by people he did not know. Nehemiah knew he could not go there by himself. He had to go as the one sent by the King who appointed those governors.
To find favor he prayed on behalf of his people. From a comfortable position in the palace he could have said to himself “God kept me here but not in Jerusalem with a purpose, lest I would have taken care of my people”. His love for God inspired love for his people.
Only God’s love compels us to come out of our selfish and complacent nature to think about the dire needs of our people. We see some high-ranking officials in India brought up from poor families forgetting everything about their own people in their villages once they achieve something. Not William Carey, a foreigner – William Carey came from England and worked for our welfare and helped us abolish customs like Sati. Amy Carmichael rescued little girls from temple prostitution. They have done this because they loved God. Nehemiah came to know the great trouble and disgrace that occurred to the remnant in Jerusalem. He said “I sat down and wept. For some days I fasted and prayed before the God of heaven”(1:4).
As a cup bearer to the king he had to be very cheerful always. A day came in his life when he could not but stand in the presence of his king with a sad face. When the king asked, Nehemiah revealed his concern for his own country. He said ‘Why should my face not look sad when the city where my ancestors are buried lies in ruins and its gates have been destroyed by fire?’ (2:3).
Nehemiah never saw Jerusalem as he was brought up in a foreign land. His parents were brought to the foreign country as prisoners of war. Yet, he enquired and learned many things about his native land and it caused him great distress and became a matter of earnest prayer. The weaknesses and failures of his own people made him cry before his God. After praying for four months God revealed that he himself is the answer to his prayers and was sent to Jerusalem.
His comfortable job did not make him reluctant but he offered himself to do good to his people. Isn’t he a true patriot? As he depended upon God to accomplish this great task God gave him favor in the sight of his king. The king appointed him as governor of Judah for 12 years during which he did many good things for the upliftment of his people.
Anyone who undertakes a work for God will sooner or later encounter oppositions. Paul wrote “a great door for effective work has opened to me, and there are many who oppose me” (1 Cor. 16:9)
Sanballat considered Jews as weak people and so ridiculed them when the walls of Jerusalem were broken and burnt (Neh. 2:19). We know the work done by Mother Teresa and the opposition she faced while serving the destitute and dying in the streets of Calcutta.
Nehemiah did not choose to hide the social problems of Jews rather mentioned them in his book. The spiritual and social conditions are recorded in the book of Malachi. He successfully handled the problems of exploitation (Chapter 5). A true patriot deals with social evils of his country unlike nationalists who either hide or deny their existence.
Nehemiah pondered (5:7) in his mind and started to deal with the issues. He talked to nobles and officials who are responsible for mortgaging fields, vineyards and homes during the famine. They responded saying “we will give it back…. And we will not demand anything more from them. We will do as you say” (5:12). This is how he redressed the grievance of his people.
A true patriot will help his society to overcome social problems unlike a nationalist. Nehemiah inspired and motivated his people to work. In fact many of them were not even trained in the job yet they worked with utmost devotion and their co-operation was astonishing. Some women worked along with their fathers and husbands. Are we able to co-operate with our leaders? We observe how the people of Jerusalem worked with one mind under the leadership of Nehemiah (4:6).They are able to complete the wall within 52 days (6:15).Even when they faced fierce opposition they did not leave the work and were ready to fight for their society. They worked with one hand while holding a weapon in another (4 :19 -25).
One of Nehemiah’s striking characteristics is his frequent recourse to prayer. We must remember the prayer life of Nehemiah, and his complete dependence upon God to perform this task.
How many of us are like Nehemiah? How are we responding when our brothers and sisters in the fellowship go through failures or shortcomings? How many of us are praying for our country? We know the prevailing circumstances in our societies are detrimental to our people. We are grappling with issues like corruption, unemployment of youth, poverty and such. Many students are perishing without the knowledge of Jesus Christ. Do we have the burden for perishing souls? Are we ready to sacrifice our comfort to win people for God?
Finally, what can we say are the qualities of a patriot? He must love his country and people. God’s love motivates us and compels us to love others. Because of God’s
- He must know how to motivate his people in the right direction. He himself inspected the ruins of walls of Jerusalem. He told them if the walls of Jerusalem are built they can come out of this disgrace and shame and inspired them to say, “let us start rebuilding”. (Nehemiah 2:18).
- He must be sacrificial (Chapter 5). When the people of his own country were acquiring wealth at the expense of their brothers, Nehemiah used his for the benefit of others.
- He must know the deepest needs of his people. Knowing the spiritual condition of his people, Nehemiah brought spiritual awakening with Ezra’s help. This made them confess their sin and set things right before God.
- He must know the setbacks of his society and how to reform the people. He came back once again to Jerusalem to reform the people (13:7). He ordered all the people to correct themselves (Chapter 13). He took efforts to convict people of their mistakes. He pursued them to come out of all that had disturbed their society. The people obeyed him and corrected themselves.
May God help us to love our country and to serve our people to the best of our abilities.
Manda John Kennedy, lecturer in Maths, Dr B R R’s GENESIS Academy of IIT and NEET, Vijayawada, Wife Mrs. M. Sundari school teacher. Presently he is the uesi-ap SDC member; they are blessed with a son & a daughter.