We are living in a tumultuous time in our nation’s history. It is a time where personal allegiances are being called into question. This is nothing new. This is how the United States was born. Immigrants from Europe sought out places to live in the New World because they could no longer, in good conscience, pledge their allegiance to governments that they saw as violating their convictions. Some arrived here under the authority and with the blessing of a sending nation such as the colonists of the British empire did.
However, the colonists eventually experienced “a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object (which) evince(d) a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism…” (Declaration of Independence). In other words, the colonists grew tired of their allegiance to Britain and King George III because their allegiance brought them pain and suffering under a despotic system. Therefore, they declared their independence from Britain and pledged allegiance to each other and the new United States of America.
Christians live on earth in a similar way. God is “colonizing” our world, so to speak, with His kingdom as individuals throw off Satan’s despotic rule and swear their allegiance to God. At that moment of sworn allegiance to God through Jesus’ saving work, our Heavenly Father rescues us “from the domain of darkness and (transfers) us into the kingdom of the Son he loves” (Colossians 1:13). For believers, we are now subjects of the highest dominion in all creation, God’s kingdom.
But the “world” is in rebellion to God’s kingdom. It is still under the influence and machinations of Satan (Matthew 4:8-9). So, we live in the world but are not of it and both kingdoms vie for our allegiance – God’s kingdom, as subjects of the Most High God and Satan’s domain, as residents of a fallen and not-yet-restored world.
Like it or not, we experience a constant tug on our allegiance from both sides. Often this pull comes from the situations we find ourselves in. The pull comes from the government under which we live, any organization of which we’re part of, any job we work, the families we were born into, and even the congregations which we call our spiritual family.
What we must understand is this: Our allegiance to any government or group must always be determined first by our allegiance to God.
The battle for our allegiance is not always active. We can be fully committed to God and the government or group to which we belong. For example, our allegiance to God is not necessarily challenged when the government makes laws, regulations, or guidelines regarding pandemics as we’ve all recently experienced. Good health practices generally line up with God’s command to “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Leviticus 19:18). Furthermore, our Heavenly Father commands us to obey earthly authorities (Romans 13:1-7) and to pray for them so that it may go well with us (1 Timothy 2:1-4). This applies beyond just the government as there are lines of authority found in organizations, jobs, families, and congregations because that’s how the world works for now.
But what happens when governments and groups don’t line up with God and His Word? It happens, you know, seemingly more often than not. A government may mandate that church health insurance programs provide for abortion services. An organization may demand members take oaths in a way (or with content) that directly breaks God’s guidelines (see Freemasonry). Other groups demand members’ allegiance to positions that directly oppose God’s Word (see Black Lives Matter “What We Believe”, https://blacklivesmatter.com/what-we-believe/). Our commitment (read allegiance) to our job may require surrendering biblical convictions, such as working on the Sabbath or medical workers required to perform abortions. Even allegiance to Christian denominations can oppose our allegiance to God when they violate God’s clear commands such as supporting homosexuality and other sexual behaviors outside of God’s boundaries.
Outright opposition to God aside, even when allegiance to the world and God don’t collide there is still a risk. Jesus said dual allegiances weaken kingdoms (Mark 3:24-25). For us, that means having to eventually choose between the two domains we straddle – God’s kingdom and the world. Which has the higher authority? God’s, of course. But the danger comes with the “pull” over which domain we give our allegiance to at any given time. The choice may not oppose God directly, but it puts us in a position of having to eventually choose between God and something else. The total of our choices over time reveals which kingdom actually holds our allegiance. Our “allegiance-based” choices are seen in our priorities and how we choose to use our time, talents, treasures, and efforts. Very revealing! And here’s the truth…one side will eventually give in to the other. Do I read the Bible in the morning as I said I would, or will I read the news first? Divided loyalty (allegiance) makes us “double-minded and unstable in all (our) ways” (James 1:8). Divided allegiance makes us indecisive when the choice between God or our desires pops up. Divided allegiance, unresolved, brings down the house of our lives, often in difficult times.
So, what should we do? I believe we need to settle this question right now. What or who holds our supreme allegiance? If there is no conflict, no problem. If there is a struggle, the decision between two allegiances is obvious - God. If there is conflict, our allegiance to God gives us strength. Any allegiance demanded of us by any government or group must always be determined first by our allegiance to God.
What if our allegiance to God brings conflict with the world? Well, we have options. While we stay faithful to God we can work for change. We can voice our opposition in love. We can work for positions where we can exert godly influence and righteous leadership in the situation. Or we can leave.
These approaches apply in many situations. Whether government, jobs, family, organizations, or congregations, we are to maintain our allegiance to God while we bring the influence of “salt” (a preservative and anti-corruption agent) and “light” (a revealer of truth and reality) into the conflict. Or we can leave if our allegiance to God is irreconcilable with our situation. This last option is viable only while one is in a “leave-able” situation. If that option is off the table, then we must be prepared to stand in allegiance to God first and foremost, no matter what.
And as we stand in allegiance to God, let’s heed Paul’s words, “If possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone” (Romans 12:18).
The Truth Barista, Frothy Thoughts