I often wonder: of what use is my nationality to Christ?  I’m an American.  That statement alone could get me killed if said aloud in the wrong areas of the planet.  Is my earthly nationality more of a hindrance than it is a help to Christ?  I just finished reading a short quip from the book Desiring the Kingdom- Worship, Worldview and Cultural Formation by James K.A. Smith.  It really got me thinking about these types of questions and verses such as:

Colossians 3.1-3  ‘Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.  Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.  For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God.’

1 Peter 4.2  ‘As a result, they do not live the rest of their earthly lives for evil human desires, but rather for the will of God.’

Philippians 3.19-20 ‘Their mind is set on earthly things.  But our citizenship is in heaven.’

What does this mean for our national allegiances?  They are most definitely a thing of this earth and we won’t have them forever… this short portion from the book really spoke to me on this subject:

‘My friend Brent Laytham, who teaches at a Christian college in Chicago, recounts an interesting experience that highlighted some of the tensions I’m suggesting between the Pledge and the Creed. One day he was called to the college president’s office to meet with an officer of the Department of Defense. One of his former students, Aaron, was becoming an Air Force pilot, and the DOD was conducting interviews to confirm his character. The officer’s questions were a bit of a challenge for a Christain who has a sense of the transnational character of the church. “Did Aaron belong to any organization that puts him in contact with foreign nationals?” the officer asked. “Yes,” Brent replied; “he’s a member of the church.” “I wasn’t trying to be coy,” Brent recounts. “In Christ we find ourselves placed in a body politic without territorial borders- the holy catholic church… We have no foreign nationals in the church, or we are all foreigners; either way, we cannot imagine that some of us are ‘us’, while others are ‘them’. At least we shouldn’t be able to imagine this.”

The officer began to press him: “But did he associate with forigners? How closely did he associate with them? Was it more than a normal amount?” Brent was perplexed at this line of questioning: “How could I answer such a question, given the church’s calling to show the world that its version of ‘normal’ simply isn’t? …I should have added, ‘The church is a “sign, herald, and foretaste” of the coming kingdom; we refuse to allow national borders to be mapped onto the body of Christ.'” Finally the officer articulated a linchpin question: “Is he a loyal American?”  While the answer in Aaron’s case was undoubtedly yes, Brent heard echoes of Dorothy Day in his head:

“In the U.S. there is assumed to be a smooth fit between discipleship and killing. That assumption, held so easily and reflectively, trespasses against our obedience to God alone. I wonder whether my questioner understands that for descendants of Jeremiah and followers of Jesus, obedience to God may require us to refuse the state’s claim to our loyalty. Does the Department of Defense grant that my fundamental obligation is not loyalty to country but obedience to God? I doubt it. In such circumstances, where Caesar cannot distinguish between our proper subjection and our ultimate allegiance, it may be best to say bluntly, “A loyal American? Of Course not. I’m a Christian!”‘ (D. Brent Laytham, “Loyalty Oath: A Matter of Ultimate Allegiance”)

Could we or would we ever say that final line?  “A loyal American? Of Course not. I’m a Christian!”

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