Allegiance to Christ vs. Allegiance to Country

Yesterday in our church service, we did not sing the national anthem or other patriotic songs. We did not pledge allegiance to the flag. We didn’t even make much of a stink about our living military personnel present in the congregation, all of which may or may not seem like a big deal. If anyone might make a big to-do about our military on Memorial Day weekend, we would certainly qualify. Our church meeting place is mere miles from a major Air Force base.

And yet, in the South, in the Bible belt, in a traditionally “red” state, we are hesitant to fly the flag of our country in any way that might supersede or even confuse the primary message that we have been given as a local church. That message is that salvation, forgiveness of sins, and a cleansed conscience are available to all who truly repent and believe. And all of this is because of the blood that Jesus shed on the cross for sinners.

Don’t get me wrong. We, of all people, would be foolish to overlook or to minimize the sacrifice and dedication of our armed forces. The saying where we live is, "you shouldn’t complain of the jet noise overhead; that’s simply the sound of freedom!" Those who have given their very lives for our freedom should be duly remembered.

And yet, I have a suspicion that the airmen who call our local fellowship home actually prefer that their church seeks to make much of Jesus Christ above all other allegiances. Pledge allegiance to the flag? Yes. But it is possible to listen to conservative talk radio, always vote for the right candidate, and still be deceived in terms of membership in the kingdom of Christ--or if not deceived, then perhaps overly shrill and unloving.

“My kingdom is not of this world,” said our Lord (John 18:36). Just as was the case with Israel, so today: physical birth into a supposedly Christian nation is not at all the same thing as new birth into the kingdom of God.

So what is the answer to the question of allegiance to country versus allegiance to Christ?

I’m not so sure that there is a real problem here. It’s like the old conundrum of divine sovereignty or human responsibility: which one is it?? Well both, of course. We can pledge allegiance to the flag, be unashamedly patriotic, listen to David McCullough’s excellent audiobooks about the history of our great nation, and do any other number of things all-American.

The simple theme that we never want to miss, however, is this: allegiance to the Lord Jesus always trumps every other allegiance. Maybe we weren’t so far off back in those ‘80s VBS days. “I pledge allegiance to the Christian flag and to the Savior for whose kingdom it stands….”

Enjoy Memorial Day. If your church sought to glorify the Lord through well thought-out patriotic elements, then great! Let the tear freely run down your cheek when you attend that community service of remembrance today. Notice the American flags in place of the traditional flag pins when you watch the PGA golf tournament. And pray, “even so, come quickly Lord Jesus; may the kingdom of the world become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ.” (Rev. 11:15)