I'm posting this article (which I originally wrote for Shapevine) as a response to the excellent discussion you all initiated from the last post on the difference between "getting saved" and becoming a follower of Jesus.
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 with 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 bring her here to 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 the US, 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 notified 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.
Pandemonium broke out as the court adjourned and everyone began celebrating.
I am very proud of my British heritage. But I’m now also proud to be an American.
This is actually the second time I have changed citizenship. I was born into an oppressive regime that sought to marginalize all its citizens. There was no justice there; its citizens frequently lived in fear, and stealing, killing and destruction were a way of life. 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.
I soon discovered that I had become more than just a citizen. I was adopted into the royal family with all the rights and privileges, not just of citizenship, but also of sonship. The King of Kings is my Father and I have instant access to His throne room at any time. My past is forgiven; my future is assured. His Spirit dwells within me to guide and teach me and I hang out with His Son all the time. The Son has other brothers and sisters too and we’ve become instant family—a community of those who are living for the King.
Just like becoming an American, I have responsibilities tied up with citizenship of the Kingdom. Most of us are used to a democracy—government by the people through their elected representatives. A sovereign who exercises supreme power and authority rules a true Kingdom. I now live a life of obedience to a merciful, loving King whose divine nature and laws have been placed within my heart.
This Kingdom is 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. Thankfully, I have read the final chapter of the history book to know we are on the winning side!
I have the privilege of acting as an ambassador for this Kingdom wherever I go, letting others know that they too can be freed from oppression. As an ambassador, I have been given authority to act on behalf of my King and to help others find their way into His glorious Kingdom.
What a privilege we have to be sons and daughters of the King!