By Gianluca Cueva
“I hereby declare, on oath, that I absolutely and entirely renounce and abjure all allegiance and fidelity to any foreign prince, potentate, state, or sovereignty of whom or which I have heretofore been a subject or citizen…” Eight years ago, this same month, I pronounced those very words. I was not born in the United States and therefore not an American citizen from birth. Instead I went through the naturalization process, and on July 23rd, 2012 I became a U.S. citizen. For many immigrants in the United States, this is a historic day for them and their families.
But perhaps a more important and foundational date for me to remember is August 26th, 2010. That is the day I became a citizen to an infinitely higher and supremely more significant state, a citizen of heaven (Phil. 3:20). But for those who do not know Christ, the New Testament (Eph. 2:19) describes them as “aliens” or “strangers” (paroikos) from the Kingdom of God. Therefore, as Christians, whether born in the U.S. or not, we were all at one point “resident aliens”, without heavenly citizenship (Eph. 2:12).
It took the death of Christ on the cross to grant us Kingdom citizenship. How often do we think of this costly privilege and identity we have in Christ? Our most important and defining identity is no longer citizens of any earthly nation, but citizens of heaven first. On the contrary, instead of being described as strangers of heaven, we are now instead described as strangers (paroikos) to our earthly nations (1 Pet. 2:11).
Though the words I spoke that day are not inspired by the Spirit, they make perfect sense. If I am to be a good U.S. citizen, I could not have any “allegiance” or “fidelity” to any other nation. We too, as Christians, must live lives “that renounce and abjure all allegiance and fidelity” to any other earthly nation or state. As citizens of heaven first, our allegiance and fidelity is first and foremost to our triune God, his Kingdom, the inspired Scriptures and the household of God (Eph. 2:19).
Though balancing the tension and navigating how to be “in this world, but not of it” demands godly wisdom from above (James 3:15), the foundational and guiding question should be: where is our first allegiance to? In an election year, we ask: where is our first allegiance to? In a global pandemic, we ask: where is our first allegiance to? In the midst of social and racial unrest: where is our first allegiance to? So this week, as we work, serve and care for our families, spend time with friends, or participate in church, we must ask ourselves: where is our first allegiance to?