Sunday, March 04, 2007

I Pledge Allegiance

Take a look at this, taken from an article on Pew Research entitled “42% - Christians First, Americans Second

Some people will look at this and worry about the Muslims being too fanatical. I look and worry that the citizens of the Kingdom of God don't seem to know where their citizenship lies! Only the Nigerians seem to have a clue about this; is it any wonder that churches are multiplying in Africa while they stagnate and die here in the States?

I am a Christian. A citizen of heaven, a subject in the Kingdom of God. I was born in this country and admittedly love it, yet would be willing to see her pass away for the good of the Kingdom. The United States of America is not God's chosen nation. My passport says that I am a citizen of this country, but it doesn't tell the whole truth. I am an alien, living out my life away from my homeland. "This world is not my home, I'm just a passing through…"

Paul says that we are fellow-citizens with God's people (Ephesians 2:19). He says that we are citizens of heaven (Philippians 3:20, written to the Philippians who would have been proud of the Roman citizenship that was theirs by birth). Peter wrote that we should live our lives as "aliens and strangers" (1 Peter 2:11). In fact, it's always been that way for God's people. Even when they were living in the Promised Land, they weren't at home. God told them: "The land is mine and you are but aliens and my tenants.” (Leviticus 25:23) If the people who lived in the land that God had provided for them were supposed to view themselves as aliens in that land, how much moreso should we.

Yet we forget that and get far too comfortable in the land we live in. I lived 15 years in Argentina and came to be very at home there. Yet I was never truly Argentine. (And my accent always gave me away!) What a blessing that was for me, to live those years as an alien. It helps me remember that, even now that I'm back in Texas, I'm still an alien.

There's an important passage in Hebrews 11. While discussing the men of faith from olden times, the writer says: “These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. If they had been thinking of that land from which they had gone out, they would have had opportunity to return. But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city.” (Hebrews 11:13-16) They recognized that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. And because they didn't seek an earthly homeland God is not ashamed to be called their God! Does our speech make it clear that we are seeking a celestial homeland? Can everyone tell that we aren’t thinking of a land here on earth? Do we readily acknowledge that we are strangers and exiles? Or are we too busy being proud to be Americans?

The apostle Paul, in Philippians 3, writes about his heritage and his past, his identity as a Jew, a Benjaminite and a Pharisee. He then writes: “But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith— that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.” (Philippians 3:7-11) Does this sound like a man who would walk up and down the street waving a flag? He considered everything else as manure compared to his status in Christ. I hope one day to learn to do the same.

I am a Christian. First and foremost. Above all else. I have a national identity document from Argentina that identifies me as a resident alien. I should have one from the United States saying the same thing. My citizenship is in heaven.

I pledge allegiance to my God,
All else falls far behind.
No land, no piece of earthly sod,
Can my obedience bind.
May my love for this world and the kingdoms thereof,
Not make me forget what I read in the Word.
My citizenship lies not here but above.
My true loyalty belongs to my Lord.


Neva said...

Enjoyed the post, Tim
Thanks for the well wishes, I am better.
I have thought about this topic before--I think we have "made" ourselves at home here--doing the very things God warned the Israelites not to do--gaining many possessions and adopting the traditions and beliefs of the country. We have settled in and perhaps we need a little unsettling. Thanks for the post. Love this kind of stuff.

Lisa Leichner said...

Hi Tim! Thanks for visiting my blog. I really enjoyed this post, so I'm glad you said hi, to get me over here. Is this one of those posts you were talking about--thinking it was a great one but wondering why no one else had much to say about it? I don't get it either. :)

I've never been asked before what I would say first, American or Christian, but I'm pretty sure I would have said Christian first. I like to support our country, but it doesn't fulfill me like having the life of a Christian does. I especially like this statement: "I was born in this country and admittedly love it, yet would be willing to see her pass away for the good of the Kingdom." And I like Neva's comment, "perhaps we need a little unsettling." If we ever do face that--losing our country--I want to be able to remind others that it could be necessary for the Kingdom. We know from history that when Christians are persecuted, when they find it difficult to worship freely, they become stronger. I look forward to stopping by here often. Great job on your blog! (Where's the button on the other blog for publishing your comment?)

lisa leichner said...

Another thought (sorry), my grandparents are all very patriotic, both of my grandfathers having served in the military. My parents, too, very patriotic, yet I never doubted that our devotion to Christ came first, before devotion to the country (or any other organization/activity that can be substituted for Christ). I think it's very important that we learn to teach our kids the order of our commitments.

Tim Archer said...

Thanks, ladies, for your comments. I've got to remember to check this "alternate" blog more often!

Grace and peace,