Thursday, November 10, 2016

"I Pledge Allegiance..."

Photo by April Sikorski
This is basically my post from the 4th of July with a new introduction. But what I wanted to point out then is the same thing I'm trying to get at now, so I think it is justified.


So we Americans just elected a new President. Whether we're jubilant or depressed by the result we at least ended up doing what we always do: the winner and loser graciously congratulate each other, and move on. The peaceful transition of power, at least, is something to be proud of; it doesn't happen everywhere.

In ancient Rome, of course, you didn't get to vote for the Emperor, but Romans were still proud of being Romans. In fact, most people have probably felt the same way about their homelands down through the ages. Mongols were proud to be mongols, serfs were proud of their lords, and Romans thought it was an illustrious thing to be a Roman. Even St. Paul would pull out his Roman citizenship on occasion:
But Paul said to the police officers, “They had us beaten in public without a proper trial—even though we are Roman citizens—and they threw us in prison. And now they want to send us away secretly? Absolutely not! They themselves must come and escort us out!”
(Book of Acts 16.37)

Where Paul claimed his rights as a Roman

Real Country

Interestingly enough, a few years later Paul wrote a letter to the group of Jesus' followers in Philippi, the city where this happened. In it he makes a point that we 21st century US citizens who claim to follow Jesus of Nazareth would do well to keep in mind as we mull over election results.

To the very people who had witnessed the Apostle forcefully insist on his citizenship in the only superpower of his time, Paul reminds them what country they really belong to.
But our citizenship is in heaven—and we also eagerly await a savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform these humble bodies of ours into the likeness of his glorious body by means of that power by which he is able to subject all things to himself.
Philippians 3.20-21

No matter what nation we live in or how much we may love it, members of the Christian movement have given their allegiance to another country and another ruler.

Paul had just finished writing this:

And so God raised him high

     and bestowed on him the name beyond all names,

that at the name of Jesus 
     every knee will bow,

those in heaven, on earth and beneath the earth,

     and every tongue confess

that Jesus Christ is Lord,

     to the glory of God the Father.

Philippians 2.9-11  (my own translation)

I'm particularly fond of N.T. Wright's little quote, "If Jesus is Lord, then Caesar is not." Jesus of Nazareth is our true King now, and eventually every knee will bow down to him.  Our knees -- the knees of the Christian movement -- have already had the privilege of bowing to him. We have independence from every 'Caesar' that rules anywhere. And our true allegiance to Christ's kingdom should condition our actions toward whatever other governments we happen to live under. 

Today, amidst your joy or agony over the election results, remember what country you truly belong to and who you really are.


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