Allegiance and Identification
By: Jonathan Harris
As of late, I've been working on memorizing the sixth chapter of Romans. My initial intention in committing this portion of Scripture to memory was to have the information available to constantly remind myself that I was no longer under sin's dominion. In short, it was to "cut-back," "cure," "stop," "destroy," etc., any inner notion I harbored towards sinfulness. Paul essentially said his practice was to "beat his body into submission" so I don't think my motivations were off, but they were very shallow. The implications of Romans 6 hadn't been revealed in their fullness yet. When I was at the Shepherd's conference this past month I attended a session on legalism and antinomianism ("without law"). The sermon was supposed to teach how a local church body can fight both dangers. Though Romans 6 was a very small portion of the speech it stuck out to me in the way it was used. Essentially, the whole chapter is about identification. Read it for yourself. No seriously, it's not that long, go read it now! Here, I'll even give you a link. Got it? Good. The passage outlines who we are in Christ - our "identification" if you will. This radically changed my perception of what I was memorizing. It was no longer just another passage about how I shouldn't sin. It was now the ultimate cure against sin. The reason given for not "continuing in sin" is that we are of Christ! It's not about doing the "right" thing, it's about doing the "Christ" thing! This is the cure for both legalism and licentiousness- legalism because our motivation for following rules is now different, licentiousness because we are forced to come to grips with who we are, and it's not someone characterized by sin.
This realization then got me thinking about other things- Why does anyone do anything? I mean, if we as Christians do what Christ does because we identify with Christ, why do heathens do what they do? There are many "groups of endearment" and "places we find security" in this world. Gangs are a good example- lots of unity, lots of identification, lots of security in who and what you are, but lots of error at the same time. But lets not limit it to gangs. What about political parties. If you identify yourself as a Republican and go around touting your gun, displaying your pro-life bumper sticker, and badmouthing all this regulatory "red-tape," you are saying with your actions, "This is my group. I am this way because its who I am!" The examples are endless. Whether your identification is your culture, gender, family, ethnicity, musical style, sport, region, job, economic standing, or a combination, your behavior will demonstrate your allegiance. Is this not why many conservatives are angry at the vast majority of Christian blacks who voted for Obama? Because their "racial" identification was stronger then their identification in Christ! Christ warned in Matthew not to:
. . . think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. And a person’s enemies will be those of his own household. Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.
God makes it clear that our devotion to him, our identification in Him, our sense of belonging to Him, supersede all other contradicting allegiances. In this case He uses the example of family. There's nothing wrong with having a familiar identify. Did not Paul highlight Timothy's mother and grandmother as a source of pride for their installation of godliness? However, such identify must not rise above our Christianity. We are first and foremost followers of Him! Being "all things to all men" demands a willingness to conceal certain things about our identification and respect other identifications in the pursuit of spreading the Gospel so as not to cause offense.
In our own day and age I perceive the "group," or in the modern vernacular, "the peeps," to be the "thing" we obtain our identify from. It has replaced the family due to familiar breakdown in the West, and has become a multicultural hodgepodge of many different cultural traditions in many cases. There's nothing wrong with a group of different people from different cultures to which you belong and participate, but its bind must be subservient to your Christian identity. The ultimate sin among the "peep" groups of our day is that of "offense," and the ultimate ethic is that of "tolerance" (hence the multicultural flair). If you cause someone to feel uncomfortable with themselves or their standing in the group you'd better either shun or be shunned because problems in the "peep group" are either ignored (seen to not exist) or taken care of (you're out!), but rarely are they actually "worked through." Reality is not important (postmodernism), perception is. The only truth which is seen to have any kind of legitimacy is that of "relationship." The pressure runs this way- "Don't sacrifice the relationship because of your beliefs. Your beliefs don't matter. The only thing that matters is the relationship!" Christ however demands that we confront at times, that we offend at times, that we make judgments at times! Just as Christ said we are to love God more than family, we should also love him more than our group of friends. This doesn't mean making ourselves the offense (obviously), but if Christ happens to be the offense your friends stumble over just know it was foretold by Him and it's to be expected. This is why Christians aren't to "walk in the counsel of the ungodly." An inner group of unrighteousness will breed unrighteousness.
Where's your allegiance? Why do you dress the way you do? Why do you listen to the music or watch the movies you do? Where does your sense of security, belonging, and pride come from? If all other identifications were wiped out, and you were left with one supreme allegiance, which one would you pick? Would it be your friends, your sports team, your family, or Jesus Christ?