“I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America and to the republic for which it stands: one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”
These are the words that began all of our school days as we grew up in elementary school. I am confident that each and every one of us would agree, regardless of what area of the country we lived in, we knew these words by heart. A pledge of allegiance is a declaration of loyalty and devotion, as a citizen toward one’s country. To what do we give our allegiance?
It is just before the Fourth of July week-end as I write this, our great patriotic celebration of our nation. We are all proud, glad and grateful to be Americans, to live in the greatest, richest, free-est, most powerful country on earth. What could be better?
Jesus lays claim to being first in our life, “Whoever does not give up even mother and father, brother and sister, son and daughter, cannot be a disciple of mine,” Doesn’t Jesus make a claim of prior allegiance, even over our country? Isn’t this subversive, a challenge to our loyalty and commitment?
Dr. Bob Cornwall has a recent Energion book, “Ultimate Allegiance: The Subversive Nature of the Lord’s Prayer,” that certainly makes this claim. We cannot give first commitment to both Christ and country; there can only be one number one.
In the Lord’s Prayer we ask for God’s kingdom to come and God’s will to be done, for God to rule in human hearts, on earth as in heaven. We pray for the supplanting of the rule of God over the rule of our democracy. Surely God would be the ultimate benevolent dictator! This supplanting is also a subverting, a turning over of human will to God’s holy will.
The Lord’s Prayer is a regular part of our daily lives. Every worship service includes it. The Didache, The Teaching of the Twelve Apostles, of the early church, recommended reciting it three times a day. I expect many of us include it in our daily devotions; we can recite the words without giving thought to their meaning.
My reading of Dr. Cornwall’s book inspired my approach to Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount in The Jesus Manifesto. Jesus speaks powerful, provocative words and challenge as much as they inspire, yet in their familiarity it is easy for us to gloss over their confrontation of our status quo. I encourage us to pick up Ultimate Allegiance and let its words wake us up to the boldness with which our Lord still speaks in our time and place.