Allegiance to the King (part 1 of 3)

Every morning at 8:30 am during the school year my son lines up with his classmates to recite three pledges before starting the day. They start by reciting the Pledge to the American Flag[1] before moving on to the Pledge to the Christian Flag[2] and the Pledge to the Bible.[3] Though these young students may not realize the full impact of their words, they are declaring their loyalty to the nation they live in (i.e. United States of America), their religion (i.e. Christianity), and their holy book (i.e. the Bible). 

                I would wager a guess that there are millions of people around the world reciting similar pledges.  They may even recite these pledges in the same order – giving allegiance first to their nation (e.g. USA, India, China, Israel, Russia, Canada, etc.), then to their religion (e.g. Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Hindu, Wicca, Atheism, etc.), and finally to their holy writings (e.g. Bible, Koran, Tripitaka, Vedas, etc.). I would further guess that most of these people, Jesus followers include, don’t even think twice about the pledges they are reciting. After all, it is normal to love the nation you live in, the religion you follow, and the holy writings you read.

                Yet, if I may vocalize a nagging question in the back of my head, should a follower of Jesus pledge their loyalty and allegiance to a nation, religion, or holy book? And if so, should we be concerned about the order in which we pledge our allegiance? Say, instead of pledging our loyalty to our nation first, maybe we should pledge our allegiance to our religion, our holy writings, and then to our nation…. or should we just stop saying the pledges all together?

                Jesus followers throughout history have come to different conclusions concerning those questions. They are not easy questions to answer as they have wide ranging implications for how we live our lives and how we interact with the world around us. For my part, I go back and forth between saying all three pledges, saying some of them, and not saying them at all. My country, religion, and holy writings have all impacted my life to a degree that words cannot fully express. Yet despite of my love for all three, there’s a war deep inside of me for I know how my love for my nation, religion, and holy writings can, and does, compete for my love for Jesus.  And that concerns me.

Photo by Samuel Schneider via Unsplash.com
Photo by Samuel Schneider via Unsplash.com

Loving Jesus

I was first introduced to Jesus by my parents who met him from their parents who likewise met the King through the influence of their parents. I remember early morning livestock feedings on the farm with my father talking about Creator or times under the hood of a vehicle talking about doing all things unto the King. There were also times of talking with my mother about the strange and odd verses in the Scriptures that didn’t seem to make sense.  Though some might think that this genealogy would lead to a lackluster religion more concerned about keeping tradition than knowing the person of Jesus, that wasn’t the case for me. Somehow my parents had managed to escape the religiosity and skepticism of the day, even while feeling the pain and disappointment that often leaks out from the rotting corpses housed in whitewashed tombs. And in doing so they taught me to love Jesus and watch for his presence in all areas of life.

These early lessons of seeing past the trappings of life to find Jesus helped me navigate the “witch’s brew of politics, cultural conflict, moralism, and religious meanness that seems so closely connected with those who count themselves the special friends of Jesus.”[4] Sadly, throughout history there have always been people who have used Jesus to support their own political and religious agendas. This is especially true for those in power in the United States of America, to the point that to “millions of people around the world, Jesus Christ is synonymous with Western society and America.”[5] 

During the 1st century when Jesus walked the earth, there were multiple views of the kingdom of God and how that kingdom was manifested in real life.[6] Jesus could have embraced the strict religious rules of the Pharisees who sought to perfectly follow the Mosaic Law for one day as to usher in the rule and reign of the Heavenly Father. Or Jesus could have retreated into the desert to study the Scriptures and worship the Lord like the Essenes. The Sadducees also offered Jesus a way forward, a way of wealth and riches through their partnership with the Roman Empire. 

The Romans themselves would have loved it if Jesus would have endorsed their way of life. After all, they were the greatest nation in the world at the time with an empire that stretched across three continents. Or if Jesus didn’t like the pagan worshiping Romans being in the land of promise, he could have joined the Zealots and fought to take back the land for God.  There were plenty of people at the time who would have loved to make Jesus king of Israel. All he needed to do is say the word and the revolution would have begun.

Jesus, however, did not and does not “endorse any other way, any other moral code except his own. Jesus was [and is] exclusively the Way.”[7] He is “the way and the truth and the life” as the Apostle John wrote quoting our Lord (John 14:6, NIV). Knowing God is a “matter of personal contact”[8] with Jesus rather than doctrine, religious duties, money, ethics, lifestyle, or any of the other boundaries people have created over the years.


Endnotes

[1] Pledge to the American Flag – “I pledge allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands, one Nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”

[2] Pledge to the Christian Flag – “I pledge allegiance to the Christian Flag and to the Savior for whose Kingdom it stands. One Savior, crucified, risen, and coming again with life and liberty to all who believe.”

[3] Pledge to the Bible – “I pledge allegiance to the Bible, God’s Holy Word, I will make it a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path and will hide its words in my heart that I might not sin against God.”

[4] Ken Wilson, Jesus Brand Spirituality: He Wants His Religion Back (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, 2008), 1.

[5] Carl Medearis, Speaking of Jesus: The Art of Not-Evangelism (Colorado Spring, Colorado: David C. Cook, 2011), 61.

[6] Additional information on the different political and religious views of the kingdom of God challenged by Jesus can be found in chapter seven and nine of my previous book, The Here and Not Yet (Vineyard International Publishing, 2017).

[7] Carl Medearis, Speaking of Jesus, 155.

[8] Carl Medearis, Speaking of Jesus, 70.

4 thoughts on “Allegiance to the King (part 1 of 3)”

  1. Looking forward to reading this series. I personally think the early apostles would shudder to think of a governmental flag in a Christian house of worship or a pledge to a kingdom other than the one Jesus leads.

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