Refresh: Begin with prayer. Ask for the Holy Spirit to open your heart to new understanding and for God’s character to be revealed.
Read: Romans 6:15-23 in the New International Version (NIV). Note 1–3 insights or questions.
Reflect: Paul writes, “You have come to obey from your heart the pattern of teaching that has now claimed your allegiance” (Romans 6:17b).
I remember as a child pledging allegiance every day at Crystal Springs Elementary School. We’d all stand up, turn toward the flag, place our hands over our hearts, and recite the pledge: “. . . one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.” Then we’d sit down and start the school day.
At the time, I didn’t understand the depth of what the Pledge of Allegiance meant. I know it means different things to different people, but the Pledge of Allegiance stirs me in ways that I can’t explain. I feel the same way about the national anthem—the good old “Star Spangled Banner.” When I’m at a ball game (seems like that’s the only place you hear it), I get emotional when the whole crowd stands, everyone takes off their hats and places their hands on their hearts, and we listen to the anthem, inwardly pledging our allegiance to the country we love and giving thanks to those who have preserved our freedom.
By the same token, I’m a follower of Jesus who knows no geographical lines, who doesn’t claim citizenship in my country, who challenges empires (yes, even the one I live in) with the principles of the Kingdom of God. If I have to choose between the Kingdom or the empire I will stand with the Kingdom each and every time.
Allegiance has a lot to do with trust and loyalty. When I pledge my allegiance to the principles of the Kingdom as Jesus outlined them in the Gospels, I cast off my empire ways (greed, selfishness, pursuit of power) and embrace Kingdom ways (selflessness, other-centeredness, love, generosity, the admitted need of a Savior).
Recently, this country has become more and more divided politically. People are throwing hate toward each other over political beliefs and party allegiances. To get caught up in this is just simply unbecoming for anyone claiming to be a follower of the soon-coming Messiah. We are not called to place our hope in this world or in any leader of any empire. We are called to pledge our allegiance to the Lamb and to His way of living. When we pledge our allegiance to the Lamb, our empire ways are set aside for a life of Kingdom living that will radically change how we do life.
Recalibrate: How do you balance pledging allegiance to your country with being a devout follower of a Christ who stands against much of what our country might stand for or promote?
Respond: Pray for those you know serving our country—for their safety and for their salvation. Pray for eyes to see the difference between the Kingdom and the empire.
Research: Check this blog post about being a Christian in America.
Remember: “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23, ESV).
Mark Witas is the lead pastor at Pacific Union College Church in Angwin, CA. Originally from the Pacific Northwest, Mark has served as a youth pastor, Bible teacher, college and academy chaplain, and lead pastor in the United States and Canada for the last 33 years. He has also authored four books: Born Chosen, Live Out Loud, Portals, and Just Jesus.
Make a picture with your child. Read over the Words to Remember one more time and write “LIFE” really big on a piece of paper. While you and your child decorate and color it together, talk about what life in Jesus means to you. Did you learn about life in Jesus when you were their age or was it when you were older? Share part of your story with God with your child. Ask them what they think it means to have life in Jesus.
Get two pieces of paper and on one of them write down all the bad things you can think of. The dark, spiders, bullies, Brussels sprouts—just all the bad things you can think of. On the other piece of paper write down all the good things you can think of. A water park, cotton candy, birthday parties, the zoo—just all the good things you can think of! Paul says that being a slave to sin brings about the worst thing, death, but when we choose to follow Jesus and live under His grace, it gives us the best thing yet, better than all the things on our good paper, eternal life with God!
Where is your hope? In high school, I had a friend named Krit from Thailand. He did not believe in Jesus. He also loved drugs and going to parties. He was not ashamed at all to tell you about his crazy lifestyle and some of his stories were disgusting. One afternoon when I was in college, Krit called me. He was subdued and said, “Kyle, none of my things will save me.” For the first time, Krit realized that his life was not guaranteed and that he had nothing in which to place his hope. So many people today are afraid. They have been placing their hope in people or in things or in their country. Many are starting to realize that the things they thought were so sure are slipping through their fingers. I want to ask you again, where is your hope? I pray that you will place it in Jesus. Claim your allegiance to Him.