Does God Want Our Allegiance?

Full disclosure, I have trouble with the word allegiance. It conjures up the relationships in feudal societies. We have romantic visions of knights swearing allegiance to their liege lord. Oaths of allegiance bound them to the service of a noble of some rank. Those oaths might have been given willingly. However, the idea of allegiance, or being bound to a noble’s service was not always willingly given. Allegiance was demanded of those who did not own, and could not legally ever own, land and home. A noble owned the land and everything on it. The serfs who worked the land and served the nobility could not leave the land or change the work they were assigned. Their positions of servitude were passed down for centuries. The rise of the middle class in cities broke up some types of required allegiances. Napoleon Bonaparte broke up the feudal system in some areas of Europe. In other areas, serfdom remained up to the early 1900’s.

So the idea of allegiance is problematic for me.

Labels aside, offering to serve a higher power, to dedicate ourselves to something greater than ourselves is a good thing. I like to paraphrase a statement from Martin Luther in the 1500’s: whatever is done from fear of punishment or hope of reward is not a work of grace. I firmly believe God is love, the kind of unconditional love we call grace. Oaths and offerings that are not freely given are not done in grace. Just as we cannot coerce God through our prayers, God will not coerce us to make oaths unwillingly. Forced allegiance is worthless to God.

God wants us to live in grace. That means we will give and receive love. We will live responsively with one another. We will be reflections of divine love. If that is what you mean by allegiance, then, yes, that is what God wants from us.

It is easy to become cynical. Loving without hope of reward? Who is really that altruistic? God is. Can we not reflect that image?