As July 4th approaches, I have been thinking a lot about what it means to be loyal or to have allegiance to someone or something. My mind continues to return to a piece of Scripture, Mark 12:13-17. It is here that we see Jesus' response to being asked if people need to pay taxes. But this passage speaks to much more than this. It helps us to see that whatever country we belong to, that country only deserves the things that are theirs. They are not owed the things that belong to other nations, or peoples, or are God's. They do not have the right over our thoughts, desires, and hopes. Whichever country we are a part of deserves to get what it is due, but not everything that we have and are.
When we look at what the Bible has to say about who Christians are called to be, we do not find instructions on how to be the most loyal subject or on how to hold allegiance to our country (though both of these things may be done when we are living out godly lives). However, what we do find is beautiful and simple, while also being deep and complex.
In Matthew 22:34-40 (just following the events from Mark 12) we see the Pharisees ask Jesus about what the greatest commandment is. His answer is very simple, but also so complex that He covers everything that could be thought of from the OT commandments. Jesus said, " You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.  This is the great and first commandment.  And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.  On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” (ESV)
Now, one may wonder why I would bring up these two passages when speaking about loyalty and allegiance. The answer is quite simple. If we as Christians do not have our priorities straight, we end up making an idol out of something else. If we do not love God first and foremost, then we are commiting idolatry. If we do not love our neighbors and fellow man second, we are failing to live in a Christlike manner.
We can love our countries and the unique aspects that they each have. We can spend the 4th of July celebrating the beginning of a land that tries to exemplify freedom and justice, though many times fails to do so. There are many times when our country shakes its fist at God and declares that it knows better than He does. It is for this reason that we must hold the first and second greatest commandments above our allegiance to any land or place. Before we pledge allegiance to a country, may we first and foremost devote our lives to the service of the One who instilled our country's claimed values in the minds of its founders. The ideals of liberty and justice are not merely the social foundations upon which this country has been built, but are rather divine truths taken from God's Word. God is just, and because of His justice, we should strive to see justice reign among all situations. God sets the captives free from sin and lives of misery, and only He can sustain freedom. Therefore, we should strive to bring freedom to those who do not have it, in any situation or experience, even if their experience and situation is not our own. God creates all people, and therefore we need to live in such a way as to reflect that truth. There is no one on earth that has been created less than another. We are all created equal. Not in the eyes of a country, but in the eyes of God!
This July 4th, my hope and prayer is that the Church in America would begin to reflect and display the glories of Christ that are uniquely written into our constitution. Not because our country is the fountain of these glories, but because those that wrote it saw the beauty and majesty of a God who redeems those who are unredeemable and frees those that are dead in their chains. To care about our fellow man is not politically based propaganda, it is the second greatest commandment given to us by God. And it can only be done when we are fully committed and faithful to the first commandment.
May the Church rise to the occasion and shine light upon areas of darkness and bring hope to those who have none.