Symbols of allegiance are significant. They have immense power to shape and form a particular identity for us. And with that identity that is formed, allegiance is instilled and nurtured. Just a few examples of symbols that form identity and forge allegiance
- Favorite baseball team logo on your cap
- College name or logo on your T-shirt/sweatshirt/alumni sticker on your car
- Family Coat of Arms
- National flag
- Water, Wine, Bread, Cross
What happens when symbols present identities that find themselves at odds with one another? The issue of rank order of our allegiance is an important consideration. This is not so much an issue with my favorite baseball team (Houston Astros) and the kingdom of God. But what about my identity as an American citizen? Typically, it seems, we think simply–Christianity first, nation second. I would argue, however, that the order of allegiance for God’s kingdom and one’s nation is not simply #1, #2. Here’s what I mean.
If citizenship is first determined by baptism, then kingdom citizenship is #1. We are likely all agreed on that. However, the next step concerns what makes one a good citizen of God’s kingdom. The Scriptures seem clear that love of God and love of neighbor modeled after the love of Christ, whether a sibling in Christ or a fellow human not in Christ, are the marks of a proper practice of kingdom citizenship. This standard is applied regardless of national boundaries, extending the witness of Christ to all peoples. And this doesn’t even get into the way our kingdom citizenship makes us siblings of persons across the borders we’ve claimed and created.
This, I think introduces a 1, 2, 3 order:
- God’s kingdom (and because of that…)
- All peoples of the world (whether in or beyond one’s national borders, and particularly those most at the margins)
- One’s nation
What’s left is to pay attention to our symbols, honoring and enjoying those listed above and more, while being sure their prominence aligns with loyal citizenship in the kingdom of Christ.