“For we are not as many, peddling the word of God; but as of sincerity, but as from God, we speak in the sight of God in Christ.” 2 Corinthians 2:17

The Pledge of Allegiance is a great tool to prompt meaningful thought concerning citizenship and volitional choice. School children are mystified by the practice of pledging but, with a little application of mental effort, they begin to comprehend the implications of good citizenship. After all, Americans do not pledge to a king but to an idea represented by the Republic’s flag of these United States; that takes a little, worthwhile effort to understand.

Allegiance comes from the Latin word alligo, meaning to bind, as in being bound in feudal times to the king or the lord of the manor (a superior). Related words appear to be liege, alliance, and league. The definition of each of these words takes its meaning from something binding. In our Pledge of Allegiance, we declare our volitional binding to the unique idea of our republic.

Webster defines allegiance as “the tie or obligation of a subject to his prince or government, the duty of fidelity to a king, government or state. Every native or citizen owes allegiance to the government under which he is born. This is called natural or implied allegiance which arises from the connection of a person with the society in which he is born, and his duty to be a faithful subject, independent of any express promise. Express allegiance is that obligation which proceeds from an express promise, or oath of fidelity. Local or temporary allegiance is due from an alien to the government or state in which he resides.”

Webster’s definition sounds rather old-fashioned to our ears, but the idea makes for good common sense and timely public admonition. His definition is especially important to consider on a spiritual level. Christians owe a quality of obedience to Christ which far exceeds allegiance due by virtue of birth. It is happy submission to the lordship of Jesus Christ because He bought you with His blood, “lock, stock, and barrel”! You are bound to Him because He is bound to you.

It is familial allegiance that leads a person to say, “blood is thicker than water.” But, for every believer, without exception, doctrine must be thicker than earthly blood-ties. How can you show due allegiance to Christ, the One to whom you owe all of your redemption, without obeying His commands and following His doctrine explicitly? Interpersonal relationships often present knotty complications. But doctrinal allegiance always defines and simplifies the options open in the middle of problems. You may not like doctrine’s dispassionate adjudication over your options. Others may tend to take your actions personally and misinterpret your allegiance to Christ as hatred. Even with the clarity of Scriptural adjudications, you will still feel the troubled emotions caused by knotty interpersonal problems (just as Paul did in verse 12f). Nevertheless, the simplicity of truth obeyed is always a great comfort to a troubled saint’s heart and leaves a clean conscience in its wake.

In 1 Corinthians 5:4-13, Paul had chastened the Corinthians for allowing open sin in their midst and advised them to act upon biblical church discipline. They displayed allegiance to Christ and obeyed. There had been a cost, but there had been authentic repentance. And then, he reached out to them concerning the next steps—forgiveness and reconciliation (2 Corinthians 2:3–8).

Their allegiance to Christ is the subject of verse 9, “For to this end I also wrote, that I might put you to the test, whether you are obedient in all things.” They had clear consciences toward God, and the erring believer felt the sting of church discipline. Based upon the repentant’s actions, Paul urged the church to act out of allegiance and show forgiveness to restore him. In verse 10, he also assured his forgiveness from his heart as well “in the presence of Christ.” What any believer does is viewed through the prism of allegiance to Christ.

I believe the Christian allegiance to his Lord is what Paul explained in verses 14–17. The word picture Paul gives in verse 14 is taken from a page in Roman pageantry. When a victorious general returned to Rome in triumph, the city turned out to watch the general enter the city on his way to his audience with the caesar. The way had been strewn with flowers and other preparations so that as the general and army proceeded through the city, their way would be filled with the scents released from incense burners and the crushing of the flowers.

The army’s parade through the city would be led by the general, resplendent and martial, decked out in all the trappings of his commission. He would have fine, spirited chargers drawing his chariot through the streets. His victorious soldiers would keep orderly cadence behind him with their awesome weapons and fine military discipline on display.

But there, chained to the victorious general’s chariot, would be individuals that he had conquered. They, too, would be in the parade which honored the general’s victory over them. Paul sees his place as the place of a conquered man chained to the victorious general’s chariot.

Such is the quality of allegiance which a believer displays to a watching world. By willing obedience, chained to Jesus’ chariot, we release the perfumes of His knowledge in every place we go. Authentic believers detect the scent of life by your obedience. Unbelievers are made sensible of their lostness by those same actions. Every day we must pledge allegiance to our Lord. Trust and obey.