On November 4, election day here in the USA, I had the privilege of speaking before some 2,000 students and faculty at Messiah College in Pennsylvania. An orchestra played at the beginning while young women students processed in carrying flags of all the nations. The students lifted high their flags, and I kept thinking that these symbols of national identity were taking people’s focus off the human beings carrying them—made in God’s image and likeness. The girls placed all the flags into stands and I was surprised that the American flag was in the second row, somewhat hidden. After the opening prayer though I opened my eyes to find the flag had crept to the front left corner—the most prominent position. I thought of the first commandment:
“I am the Lord your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. You shall have no other gods before me. You shall not make for yourself a graven image, or any likeness of anything… you shall not bow down to them or serve them” (Exod 20:1-4).
The prohibition of images is because human beings are God’s image bearers, created and placed in the temple of God’s creation as those given authority to exercise dominion (Gen 1:27-28; Psalm 8) over all of creation—including the authorities and powers. Moses, the prototype human being in a prophetic role before the powers was to be “as God to Pharaoh” (Exod 7:1).
That morning I spoke on how God had elected each and every one of us, adopting us as beloved sons and daughters. Each of us are made in God’s image and likeness, and Jesus is the perfect embodiment of an empowered bearer of God’s image. He is God’s anointed one, the Messiah/Christ, and God has raised us with Christ and made us sit with him in the heavenly places now (Eph 2:6). Through his Holy Spirit we too receive the anointing, and become little anointed ones (christians or anointlings).
On election day and thereafter, when we may tend to put hope in candidates and even “a new spirit of patriotism” (Obama) I invite people to remember rather that God has chosen each one of us, and is recruiting us and empowering us with the Holy Spirit to follow Jesus to announce his Kingdom, on earth as in heaven.
This does not mean we do not vote or promote structural change. We are called to be advocates for the poor and oppressed, to pray for our leaders and even to submit to them— but never at the expense of our highest allegiance to Jesus and his kingdom. But now is the time to remember that deep change does not happen through elections or legislation but through the process of conversion and empowerment from the bottom up.
In subsequent chapel later last week I introduced the US version of the Jesus Pledge, which I am including below. I encourage you to prayerfully read it and consider joining a group we’ve just set up on my facebook—where we’ve posted an international version of the Jesus Pledge (http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=49000126270)
The Jesus Pledge
What is the Jesus Pledge? A movement of Christians from the United States who feel compelled at this time to reaffirm our allegiance to Jesus as Lord and Christ, and the cross as God’s way of overcoming evil. We, therefore, give our allegiance to Jesus and the pursuit of God’s kingdom above all else, and renounce allegiances to nation that in any way compromise our calling and identify us with war and the use of force instead of Jesus’ life-giving love displayed in his earthly ministry and in his death for the world on the cross.
We confess that Jesus is Lord, the full revelation of the God of the Old Testament and that before Him every knee will bow. We confess that Jesus is Christ, Israel’s Messiah, and Savior of the world who conquered the power of evil on the cross. We agree with Jesus’ call to undivided allegiance to God: "No one can serve two masters…” (Matt 6:24), and “Love the Lord your God with all your heart…and your neighbor as yourself.” We also reaffirm that: “God so loved the world…” and now sends us with that same love to our society’s outcasts and our country’s enemies. Like Jesus, we must say ‘yes’ to the kingdom of God, and ‘no’ to all allegiances that compromise the furthering of that kingdom.
As followers of Jesus Christ who are citizens of the United States, we are troubled when God’s name is overly identified with our country’s wars and laws through Christians remaining silent or actively promoting them as ordained by God. We believe any union between the name of Jesus and our government and its leaders is both idolatrous and a hindrance to the witness of the Church. Killing our enemies and enforcing dehumanizing laws in the name of God deny Jesus’ call to love our enemies and to join him as a “friend of sinners.” This is the time for genuine, widespread repentance and change.
As a follower of Jesus Christ, and in keeping with my baptismal vows:
I renounce allegiances to the world and nation that would lead me to justify the use of violence, war or any type of force that are incompatible with Jesus’ teachings and his witness on the cross. I affirm God’s mission for the Church to serve as ambassadors of the kingdom of God, announcing forgiveness, promoting healing, peace and reconciliation – by loving and blessing those considered our enemies.
I renounce the flesh as it manifests in a spirit of national pride, superiority and self-interest that pursues our nation’s dominance for our own economic and material benefit and security. I affirm that my primary earthly place of belonging, identity and loyalty is in Jesus Christ and his body -- the borderless, worldwide family of God, and embrace his way of humility, service and love of God and neighbor.
I renounce Satan, the accuser and deceiver, and turn from his lie that America is God’s elect ambassador of freedom and Christian values whose mission justifies and requires the sacrifice of human lives. I affirm God’s kingdom as manifested through Jesus’ life, death and resurrection and through his Church empowered by the Holy Spirit.
I encourage you to join our group on facebook http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=49000126270 and watch for a website we're setting up jesuspledge.com where we want to provide resources to a growing movement of Christians seeking greater faithfulness and commitment.