The idea of pledging allegiance to something should certainly not be taken lightly. It means to be loyal to or to submit to some thing or cause. I’ve been “pledging allegiance” to the United States flag since I was in kindergarten. It’s not like I knew what true allegiance was at the time. I simply knew I lived in a country that taught its children to stand before class and repeat this pledge. Plus at that age it’s quite an accomplishment to memorize, no matter what it is.
As I grew older I definitely understood it more. But I honestly feel like I’m with most people in that, unless your parents are military you don’t just grow up with a profound sense of patriotism. I got it. I just wasn’t particularly moved by it.
Then September 11, 2001 came and that definitely changed some things. When your home country gets attacked by terrorists, and in the aftermath you see your nations flag raise high from the ashes, you tend to feel patriotic. It’s a sense of ownership. “This is my home that they just attacked.” And now that flag and our anthem mean more to me. Those who fight and fought for the freedom I enjoy in this land became more than just an idea or lessons in school, but a reality. So when I saw the flag, or heard the national anthem being sung anywhere post 9/11 there was a sense of honor, and a deeper sense of allegiance. Whether it was at a sporting event, on TV, or teaching the Star Spangled Banner to my own children, it meant something.
So how does this all play out for those who follow Christ today in America? What is a Christian’s responsibility to his or her country? What if someone does not stand for the anthem, or what if another takes it a step further and kneels? Here’s what I do know for sure. The God I serve is not American. The ideal I stand for is not one that any nation founded, but one derived from the King of kings and Lord of lords. Christians have a duty first to uphold the truths of the Gospel and the freedom that Christ gives to people from all nations. Do I believe our president should make rules for proper posture when an NFL player hears the Anthem before a game? Not really. It sounds a little bit like the times of Caesar actually. People would be killed for not bowing and pledging allegiance to the statue of Caesar. No, it’s not exactly the same in this case, but freedom is freedom, and that doesn’t really sound like freedom.
I believe that Christians can and should hold a respect for the nation they were born into and reside in. I believe the Scriptures are clear about the laws of the land, respecting and praying for our national leaders, and our obedience to those laws being God-glorifying, so long as they do not interfere with the Word of God. But Christians who feel they need to divide from others in this country because they do not love the flag, or the anthem or the pledge, because they do not believe it or practice what it stands for, should take a step back. Our duty with the Gospel lifts us beyond nationalism and patriotism. Not better than, but more complete. We should see every person as a soul created by a loving God who can heal the brokenness inside, no matter what that is. The Gospel teaches us to love all nations equally because God sent His Son to be the Savior of the world, and to rescue a people for himself from every corner of the globe. In light of the bigger picture of the Gospel, whether someone stands, sits or kneels is really no matter to a disciples of Jesus.
Do you feel wronged and angry when someone does not love this country the way you do? I would simply ask you the very question that God asked the prophet Jonah. “Are you right to be angry?” America can sometimes be like that plant that shaded Jonah for a short time. When our shade and comfort get threatened we often pity ourselves and the “plant” that shades us more than the people God wants us to reach. Don’t forget that people are more important, and your allegiance, if you’re a Christ follower that is, lies primarily with God and His Word.