GUEST POST: On pledging allegiance

By Tom Prevost

It seemed simple at the time, getting on my knees with my parents around the coffee table in the living room of our house at 4812 Hummingbird Lane.

I had felt a strong conviction during the pastor’s devotion toward the end of the Wednesday night prayer meeting. I didn’t say or do anything at the time.

But as soon as we had returned home, I told my parents. They led me to the living room, with its aura of formality, and prayed with me.

I basically told Jesus that I was sorry for my sins — accepting him as my Lord and Savior, and promising to follow him.

Later I learned more about conviction, repentance and salvation — along with sanctification and glorification, and other meaningful aspects of trying to understand and relate with God. But I did know then that I was pledging allegiance to Jesus.

As an army brat, I had a very real sense of commitment and identity when I pledged allegiance to the flag of the United States of America. Since I was an American before I pledged allegiance to the flag, no change of orientation was necessary.

This pledge to Jesus, however, was not only more heartfelt and personal but carried an understanding that I was moving from one allegiance to another — from self-orientation to Jesus-orientation.

On an ongoing basis, I try to be properly Jesus-oriented, don’t you? It remains simple in that we still pledge allegiance to Jesus.

The challenge, however, is in getting beyond lip service and actually following.

It is somewhat like the sport of orienteering that requires a map and a compass. It may involve timing and reaching certain destinations.

If we had a map of the future, it would be nice to have a Jesus-compass. We already know he points emphatically to the kingdom of God (Matthew 6:33) which can also be understood as God’s rule or reign.

Jesus also stresses the love of God and one another, and then ends what we call the Great Commission with “teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you” — before giving assurance that he is with us always” (Matt. 28:20 NRSV).

That calling and assurance might be enough for us to stay oriented even without a map of the future.

We have lots of images and directives of Jesus which give us clues for living each day. They come primarily from the Bible, the witness of past and present saints (church, tradition), and the Holy Spirit.

Then we get swamped with translations and theories about scripture. We get confused by the history of dissension in the faith through the centuries, and how believers today often treat each other shamefully in their own congregations as well as those in other religious groups.

Spirituality is sought after, but piety gets confused with self-righteousness. And the Holy Spirit gets marginalized by our distrust of emotionalism in a supposedly sophisticated culture.

Those three sources of information (Bible, tradition and Spirit) often seem unclear and difficult to interpret. We forget that Jesus lived in a world with very similar controversies, as have Christ-followers through the centuries. So the clues from Jesus remain with us.

Further challenges for us beyond the time of the historical Jesus are the scientific, industrial and technological revolutions of recent centuries that continue to generate accelerated changes in our world.

Nation states are now the dominant political feature. These and other dynamics seem to accentuate the human struggle for meaning and direction.

Can we trust the counsel of Jesus that “…the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do and, in fact will do greater works than these….” (John 14:12 NRSV)?

Might we find a clue later in that same discourse, in Jesus’ encouragement that “When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth…” (John 17:13 NRSV)?

We get focused on some truths and lose sight of others. Yearning for the return of Jesus, we forget he’s with us now as he promised.

Believing God holds the future, we forget God is sovereign now. Asking for forgiveness, we neglect to forgive.

Celebrating the empty cross, we forget to take up ours. Looking forward to heaven, we forget that we can enjoy God’s personal governance now.

Maybe there’s more unity in diversity than we realize; God’s incredible creativity seems to revel in diversity.

Maybe we all need to allow God to enjoy many worship styles; after all, we come with different answers to prayers and expressions of genuine joy.

Maybe our doctrines need some more Jesus-tweaking — like his fulfilling of the Law and the Prophets (Matt. 5:17 NRSV).

Maybe we just need to pay closer attention, like Jesus suggested. To look at the birds, observe the lilies (Matt. 6:26-29).

Let us pledge allegiance again. The orientation continues.

Tom Prevost of Chattanooga, Tenn., served in various ministry roles including directing the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship’s rural poverty initiative. He serves on the Advisory Board of the Jesus Worldview Initiative (