Francis Bellamy (1855-1931) was a Baptist minister’s son from upstate New York. He distinguished himself in oratory at the University of Rochester before following his father to the pulpit, preaching at churches in New York and Boston. Later in his life, while working for a family magazine called the Youth’s Companion, he set to work on a patriotic program for schools around the country, commemorating Christopher Columbus’ 400th anniversary of arriving in the New World.
Included in that program was now famous ‘The Pledge of Allegiance’ which Bellamy wrote in August 1892.
In its original form it read: “I pledge allegiance to my Flag and the Republic for which it stands, one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.” In 1923, the words, “the Flag of the United States of America” were added. Ultimately, in 1954, in response to the Communist threat of the times, President Eisenhower encouraged Congress to add the words “under God,” creating the 31-word pledge we say today. Today it reads: “I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the republic for which it stands, one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”
Today, the ‘under God’ part is creating quite a stir in America! Yes, allegiance to His authority is polarizing!
In fact, allegiance to His authority has always been a polarizing proposition.
Jesus was not only the most polarizing figure in His day, He is the most polarizing person in history. And hence, those who declare allegiance to Him are now squared off against those who not only reject Him, but defy His authority.
Perhaps that’s why we can resonate with Jesus’ words: ‘He who is not with Me is against Me’ (Matthew 12:30, Luke 11:23).
As one bible commentator rightly notes, “When you declare allegiance to heaven, you declare war on hell, and hell fights back pretty hard.”
The Apostle Paul is a prime example of one caught up in the storm of alliance or defiance to the authority of Jesus!
In Acts 9, after Saul (Paul) is converted, he begins preaching the gospel to the amazement of many:
“Immediately he preached the Christ in the synagogues, that He is the Son of God. Then all who heard were amazed, and said, “Is this not he who destroyed those who called on this name in Jerusalem, and has come here for that purpose, so that he might bring them bound to the chief priests?” But Saul increased all the more in strength, and confounded the Jews who dwelt in Damascus, proving that this Jesus is the Messiah [Christ]” (Acts 9:20-22).
Saul, who acted in defiance of all things related to Jesus, is now allied with the Lord. And as passionately as he fought against gospel, he is now fighting for the gospel. Defiance turned to alliance – this is the very power of God!
For those not willing to pledge allegiance to the Lord, they not only defy the gospel through unbelief, they also at times will actively try to silence it, as seen in the intense opposition to Saul.
“Now after many days were past, the Jews plotted to kill him. But their plot became known to Saul. And they watched the gates day and night, to kill him. Then the disciples took him by night and let him down through the wall in a large basket.” (Acts 9:23-25).
At this point in the narrative there is uncertainty and confusion among some of the disciples. I imagine their thinking something along these lines – ‘What’s the deal with Saul? We thought he was against us. Now he appears to be for us.’
Time will soon tell – Saul is the real deal! This is no ruse. No trap. He’s now a bold believer…one who will not remain silent despite the threats of those who want to silence him:
And when Saul had come to Jerusalem, he tried to join the disciples; but they were all afraid of him, and did not believe that he was a disciple. But Barnabas took him and brought him to the apostles. And he declared to them how he had seen the Lord on the road, and that He had spoken to him, and how he had preached boldly at Damascus in the name of Jesus. So he was with them at Jerusalem, coming in and going out. And he spoke boldly in the name of the Lord Jesus and disputed against the Hellenists, but they attempted to kill him. When the brethren found out, they brought him down to Caesarea and sent him out to Tarsus. (Acts 9:26-30)
Paul lived ‘out loud.’ His alliance to the Lord Jesus required it. Those in defiance of the Lord Jesus sought to silence the propagation of the gospel.
Fast forward to our current 21st Century religious environment.
Today we live in world that is increasingly hostile to the gospel message. Here in the United States of America, this hostility is rising at an alarming pace. And yet, as we see, there is nothing new under the sun!
For those of us who pledge allegiance to Jesus, the question is this:
Will we stay silent about our faith, or will we ‘live out loud,’ like the Apostle Paul, engaging those in defiance of the gospel who seek to silence our witness? For we all have a choice.
Practically speaking, to live out loud is to express our alliance to Christ. And in this way our alliance to Christ is defiance against silence!
Therefore, LORD, gives us the grace and faith to live out loud, proclaiming Your gospel among an increasingly hostile world that so desperately needs You! Amen.
“Sing to the Lord, bless His name; Proclaim the good news of His salvation from day to day. Declare His glory among the nations, His wonders among all peoples” (Psalm 96:2-3).