What do you pledge allegiance to?
I’m sure that the title of this blog post will strike a nerve with some. You may be wondering where I am going with this. Am I going to touch a third rail? Am I going to say something considered unpatriotic? Am I going to make some kind of statement that aligns me with one of the two partisan political parties in the US — or at least the perceptions that people have about the “other” party, whichever one they are not aligned with?
My question is this — who or what do you swear your ultimate allegiance to? Who or what is the thing or person that you swear ultimate loyalty to? Who or what are you willing to die for when it comes down to it?
I know many soldiers who have pledged their lives for the sake of the country. They do so because of what they see the country standing for — freedom and liberty. There have been soldiers that have died in defense of this country and these ideals. There is much to be commended for this. It is the ultimate price that they paid. We live in a violent world, filled with division, mistrust, and war and soldiers dedicate their lives to a set of ideals that others can live by.
And, at the same time, I have trouble with the language that is often used to describe these soldiers and what they did — terms like sacrifice, died so that others may live, shedding blood, they saved the nation, etc.
These are religious terms. These are faith terms. These are terms with deep theological meaning. Specifically, they utilize Christian theological terms and concepts used in reference to Christ, his suffering, and ultimate sacrifice of crucifixion on the cross where he shed blood in order to save creation. He died as part of being the Savior. He didn’t die in order to promote civic religion.
And he didn’t do it through military action and violence either. He didn’t save creation the way that nations have long utilized to “solve” their problems and deal with their enemies. He lived and died differently. Paying the ultimate price.
And I think it raises the question for the average person — where does one’s ultimate allegiance lie? Does that allegiance mean that a person is excluded from swearing allegiance to a nation? What about service in the military? I don’t think so. Even in the bible, there are stories of centurions who converted and continued in service to the Roman empire. But you have to wonder, how did they change after their conversion? How did it impact them in their daily life?
The question can be asked another way — what is it that shapes you so much, that impacts you so much, that it changes you and guides your daily life? Your ultimate allegiance is the foundation of your life. It shapes you in your daily interactions. It guides you in how you relate to and with others.
When you look at your life, is your ultimate allegiance to a person, party, or nation? Are you guided by resistance to those in power? In your daily interactions, are you often angry, upset, or worse because of what happens around you? Are you guided by suspicion of others and mistrust? Are you guided by assuming the worst from others and how they are just working the system? Are you guided by judgement of people who you see as just blind to the obvious?
If you are Christian, what are you known for? Being judgmental? Excluding people? Being against a group of people for who they are, what they believe, or how they live their lives? For your anger at those who don’t agree with you or can’t pass your purity test?
Or are you known for something else? The old hymn stated that “they’ll know we are Christians by our love…” Do we live that out? Or are we too busy confusing our allegiances to earthly things and people.
As Christians we claim grace, not karma, as the way of God. We don’t get what we deserve (karma), we get what we don’t deserve (grace). Do we live that out? Or are we too busy showing everyone else how right we are and that they better get on board or else they are just idiots or worse?
As Christians, we claim to be given forgiveness from God — especially in times we don’t deserve it. Do we live that out? Or are we too busy judging everyone, throwing vitriol at them, shaming them, or worse?
What is your ultimate allegiance? As a Christian, it should be to Christ. And it should impact how you live. That doesn’t mean that you’ll be perfect. In fact, you’ll fail pretty often. But every day, even every moment, you’ll receive grace, love, and forgiveness. These are reset buttons for us — the opportunity to be lifted up and try again. And fail again. And be lifted up again. And on occasion to actually live out what has been given to us from God so that others may experience these as well.
Our ultimate allegiance is what guides our daily life. It’s the core of who we claim to be and what we claim to stand for. It’s the foundation of our lives. It’s what we would be willing to die for. As Christians, we die each day when we live out that allegiance to Christ. Christ calls on us to take up our cross (the thing that will ultimately kill us shamefully by the world’s standards), and to follow him. This isn’t a light commitment where we mouth the words and go on living as we want. It’s much deeper. It’s transformative. In it, we die, and God resurrects us to live life following and serving.
Originally published at laceduplutheran.com on January 25, 2018.