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Absolute Allegiance

Deuteronomy 6
Deuteronomy 6 is a call for absolute obedience. Moses tells the people of Israel, 'You and your children, and your children’s children, [must] fear the Lord your God all the days of your life, and keep all his decrees and his commandments that I am commanding you, so that your days may be long.’
Hear, O Israel,’ he continues portentously, ‘The Lord is our God, the Lord alone.’ He goes on to say that they must love the Lord their God with all their heart, and soul, and might.
Compare this with the commandment of the Assyrian emperor Ashurbanipal: ‘You shall love Ashurbanipal, King of Assyria, as you love yourselves… You shall instruct your sons who will live in the future… you shall not set over yourselves another king, another lord.’*
Israel was fairly unique, in the ancient Middle East at any rate, in giving absolute loyalty not to the state, nor to a ruler, but to God. No wonder, then, that there was so much resistance in Israel to the idea of kingship. Here everyone was, in theory at least, equal before God. People didn't want to bow the knee to any mere mortal, however charismatic or powerful they might be.
Some other things follow from this. The moral code, given by God, always claims precedence over the law of the land or the will of the leader. God's people can never say, 'My country, right or wrong!’ Indeed, the original quote continues, ‘If right, to be kept right; and if wrong, to be set right.’
And that’s because Christians always owe allegiance to a wider realm than the land of their birth or where they’re citizens. We’re citizens of heaven, children of God and part of his family before we're citizens of Britain or any other country. In fact, by comparison, being British citizens scarcely matters at all.
How we interpret this depends on our point of view. Some Christians would emphasize that we’re all part of the worldwide Church. Others would say that God’s people is not only wider than any one denomination or tradition, but wider even than those who profess allegiance to God in Christ. They would include in God’s family all people of goodwill. Some would go further still and affirm that God's family embraces the whole human race, and certainly all people who believe in God. And some would want to say that it extends to the whole of creation - birds, animals, insects, fish and the whole environment.
*Quoted in Oldi Morava, Guidelines, Bible Reading Fellowship, January 2017


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