I think it was during my late teen years that the notion of the Christian believer’s foremost allegiance began to stick with me. More than once during those years, I read every word of my grandfather’s paper on the Christian and government.¹ In the sub-context of stating a Christ-based unwillingness to serve in the military (but also revealing a broader philosophical stance which I also affirm), Granddaddy wrote, “I will try to be submissive insofar as this submission does not compromise my basic allegiance to Christ.” Such thinking has been a part of my theological chassis for some time. Many welders have strengthened the undercarriage, so the allegiance frame is pretty unlikely to break at this point.
Some years later, when I heard Ray Boltz’s² rather unique song “I Pledge Allegiance to the Lamb,” it added a “contemporary Christian” bit of support to my thinking. A Christian should have one primary allegiance, I knew, and that allegiance should obviously not be to the flag of a country, but Boltz had stated it well in the positive: Jesus the Lamb was the One to Whom loyalty is due. I wonder now whether Boltz was responding creatively (either consciously or subconsciously), knowing something was amiss in the popularity of Lee Greenwood’s “God Bless the USA,” which was then more than ten years old and had become the anthem of the U.S. military, beginning in the Gulf War era.
Also sometime during the 1990s, I had come to the songs of the late Rich Mullins. Just a couple of days ago, I happened to put one of Mullins’s CDs in my player, as I seem to every couple of months. The song “If I Stand” has often moved me, through years, filling up my eyes, and it did so again. It is not the word “allegiance” first that struck me, but a synonym:
There’s a loyalty that’s deeper than mere sentiment.
Nationalistic patriotism in most people (not all, I understand) has most often struck me as mere sentiment. One or two good friends have challenged my concept of patriotism, and I do acknowledge that it can be a neutral or even good thing even in the believer’s life. Still, Mullins’s sentence has stuck with me through the years. Whatever the inner sentiment of a national patriot, surely loyalty must outlast and outshine the sentiment. And it is the same for a believer: it’s not that there is no sentiment; it’s that allegiance to the King must be real and transcendent.
In the song “If I Stand,” Mullins and co-writer Cudworth continued,
The stuff of earth competes for the allegiance I owe only to the giver of all good things.
In internalizing these thoughts sporadically for more than two decades, my own allegiance has been both (a) shown to be the weak thing that it is and (b) impelled forward. Five songs later on the disc, Mullins offered “My One Thing,” showing once again that he desired to embody a surpassing allegiance:
You’re my one thing!
Save me from those things that might distract me.
Please take them away and purify my heart.
I don’t want to lose the eternal for the things that are passing,
‘Cause what will I have when the world is gone,
If it isn’t for the love that goes on and on with my one thing!
In 2015, I was introduced by Richard Hughes to the writing of Lee Camp. First poring over Camp’s Mere Discipleship, I was impressed by his depth and his on-target courage to speak into the fray of modern Christendom, not to mention his skill with written expression. In the course of this book, Camp depicted worship as allegiance, and I have yet to dive into that connection, but something compels to do so. Allegiance is a rather massive, compelling ideal.
In part two, I will mention a (relatively) new book by Matthew Bates—Salvation by Allegiance Alone. I’ll also say some things related to faith and allegiance in Paul’s (old) letter to the Galatians. Allegiance is a concept with substantial, longstanding history.
¹ Andy T. Ritchie, Jr.’s paper is in the public domain and is reproduced in my book Subjects of the Kingdom.
² Only in writing this post have I learned that Boltz’s allegiance to his own desires later eclipsed his allegiance to Christ and to his wife.