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speaks to it with profound clarity. Paul says that Christians should submit to the State (Romans 13:1-4), obey its laws (Titus 3:1) and pray for its leaders (1 Timothy 2:1-2). Christians are to be good citizens. Christians are also to be subversive citizens, political prophets who boldly live out a narrative of suffering, sacrifice and death. The fulcrum of the biblical story hinges on a revolutionary peasant-King who received the death penalty for treason. The Christian proclamation that Jesus is king is inherently a political protest.




olin Kaepernick just might be the most famous and well-paid backup quarterback in NFL history. On August 26, before a preseason game against the Green Bay Packers, the 49ers’ quarterback sat down during the national anthem in protest against racial injustices in America. “I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color,” Kaepernick told America boasts of many freedoms, including a citizen’s right to peacefully protest injustices—and there are many—prevalent in our society. If Tim Tebow is free to kneel and pray, if presidents are free to send 18-year-olds overseas to kill and die, if the KKK is free to continue to exist as an organization, then professional athletes should be free to stand or sit during a song which celebrates America—a country, like all countries, with a questionable moral track record. Of all people, Christians in America should be the first ones to raise questions about our relationship to the State. Should we stand? Or—should we sit? Should we give our allegiance to the State? Or to Jesus? Or can we somehow do both?

No one said it as clearly as John in the book of Revelation. It’s unfortunate that this subversive piece of literature has been hijacked by contemporary newspaper theologians who use it to predict the end of the world in bewildering detail. The book of Revelation is an aggressive critique of the State, written by a pastor imprisoned for a lack of patriotism. John boldly lambasts Rome for its immorality, greed, pride, excessive luxury and an addiction to military might that stained the world with blood to secure its interests (Revelation 17-18). No Christian in the first 300 years after Jesus would have pledged allegiance to Rome during a church gathering. Roman flags didn’t stand next to Christian flags in first-century house churches, and followers of Jesus viewed themselves as citizens of one: one Lord, one baptism, one kingdom of sojourners scattered across the Earth as colonies of Heaven. Christians in America are more like Israelite exiles in Babylon than Jewish kings in Israel. While Christians should submit to the state, pray for its leaders and render qualified obedience to its laws, to pledge allegiance is a profoundly religious act. It’s a religious statement infused with divided loyalties and borders on syncretism. I think the burden of proof rests on those followers of the crucified Lamb to show that citizens of heaven can truly pledge allegiance to anyone other than Christ—and that’s something Christians need to think about deeply.

UNDERSTANDING ALLEGIANCES Christians too often ignore these questions, or they get mad when people raise them. Try blowing up your next Bible study by asking the question: Should Christians stand for the national anthem or recite the Pledge of Allegiance? You might just start a fight. The early church’s relationship to Rome was a pressing issue and Scripture


PRESTON SPRINKLE a po is a speaker, podcaster, blogger and author of several books including Erasing Hell.


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RELEVANT-Issue 84- November/December 2016  
RELEVANT-Issue 84- November/December 2016