On May 23rd 2008, I became an American
citizen. In a large gymnasium hastily
converted into a courtroom, before a presiding judge and with all due pomp and circumstance, I pledged allegiance to my new country and was granted the rights and
privileges that citizenship brings.
It was a surprisingly moving ceremony punctuated by patriotic songs and speeches about freedom. There were around 1,100 of us, from 85
different nations. The immigration
officials several times spoke of the incredible stories—the hardships that some
people had endured to gain the privilege of citizenship. I was sitting next to a man from Bangladesh who
had not seen his wife in more than eight years in order that he could become an
American citizen and have her come and join him legally. For me, coming from a nation like Britain, I take
freedom and justice for granted, but many people were from oppressive regimes
or situations where the rule of law has no sway, and poverty and injustice are
a way of life. In becoming citizens of
they are liberated.
There were several judges and even a US senator in
attendance. An immigration official had
to swear on our behalf that all of us had been investigated and no just cause
was found whereby we might be denied citizenship, and we all had to raise our
right hands and solemnly promise that there was no reason we knew of why we
should not become citizens. We were then
informed of the rights and privileges we would automatically have as citizens
of the United States. These included such things as the right to
travel under an American passport, the right to vote and so on. We were also informed of our responsibilities
including the fact that any of us could be called on to fight for our country
if the occasion arose. America’s wars
are now my wars.
Finally, we had to give up any loyalty that we might have
had to “kings, potentates and other authorities” and swear allegiance to our
new country. We pledged allegiance to
the flag of the United States of America, and were all declared to
be American citizens, with a certificate to prove it. Then pandemonium broke out as the court
adjourned and everyone began celebrating.
I am very proud of my British heritage. But now I’m also proud to be an American.
This is the second time I have changed citizenship. I was actually born into an oppressive
regime that sought to marginalize all its citizens. There was no justice; its citizens
frequently lived in fear, and breaking its laws carried the death penalty. At the age of 11, I had the opportunity to
change my citizenship and I appeared before a judge. This time, I could not claim that I was
worthy to be granted citizenship, but Someone came and stood in my place, and
my right to become a citizen of this new country was based on His righteousness
rather than my own. And so in the
courtroom of heaven, I relinquished my citizenship in the kingdom of darkness
and became a citizen of the Kingdom of light ruled by a good, righteous and
just King. However, I became more than
just a citizen; I was welcomed into the royal family with all the rights and
privileges, not just of citizenship, but also of sonship.
Just like becoming an American, there are also
responsibilities tied up with citizenship of the Kingdom. I was born again into a nation at war. Like it or not, her wars are now my wars, and
God’s Kingdom is in the process of invading the kingdom of darkness. I also have the privilege and responsibility of acting as an
ambassador for this Kingdom wherever I go, and of letting others know that they can
be free from the oppression of the regime they currently live under. They
too can change citizenship and come under the rule of a King who loves them and
is longing to welcome them into His Kingdom.
For a year now, I have been studying the subject of the Kingdom of God. This post is the first of several to discuss this subject. I will be very interested to hear your
comments too—I have not come to many set conclusions on the topic and am
aware it is one of those subjects that the Holy Spirit is bringing to people’s