Prior to 1929, there was no standard oath to recite when someone became a citizen of the United States. As you might imagine, this reality allowed for the naturalization process to vary from state to state. But in 1929, that reality changed when the U.S. Citizenship Oath took on standardized language. About twenty years later (1952), amendments were made to emphasize service to the country. Those changes included adding language around bearing arms on behalf of the United States when required, and performing noncombatant services in the armed forces when deemed necessary. The time frame (1950s) for all this is of importance. Think about it: this was the onset of the Cold War, and the stakes—both real and perceived—were at a tension-filled high.
The amended form of the Citizenship Oath still stands today, and it begins: “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…” Words matter. And if you’re going to be a citizen of the United States, it seems your allegiance does as well. You’ve got to be all in. You’ve got to stand firm. Of course, the “foreign” powers being referenced in the oath are earthly kingdoms and countries. But what if, for example, your truest citizenship is in heaven? (Philippians 3:20).
The New Testament is abundantly clear on this matter. If I have chosen allegiance to the cross of Christ, then my citizenship lies with His kingdom. While I may still be a citizen of this or that country, nation, or even of this world, things have changed. I live for and serve only One, even as I live as a citizen of my earthly country. To be a follower of Jesus means being all in. Sure, I am to render to Caesar what is Caesar’s (Mark 12:17), but I am also to render to God what is God’s—and God demands all of me.
The language the apostle Paul uses indicates that waffling in my allegiance to Christ equates to being a “enemy of the cross.” That’s rather harsh, isn’t it? But you see, far from some war between rival countries, you and I live in enemy territory, in a daily struggle for our hearts and minds. This calls for standing firm in the Lord each day, living acutely aware of “those who cause dissensions, for such people do not serve our Lord Christ but their own appetites. They deceive the hearts of the unsuspecting with smooth talk and flattering words.”
Words matter. And if we claim to be Christians, those whose citizenship is in heaven, then that should be abundantly clear to anyone paying attention. Everything has changed, and we now live in such a way “that the name of our Lord Jesus will be glorified.” Our allegiance is to One, and to Him only.
Written by John Blase