Agreement vs. Allegiance

"How can you explain the fact that Christianity is responsible for the Inquisition, the Crusades, and all sorts of other wars and atrocities?" asked my college professor.


All eyes turned toward me, a student at that time, and known for subscribing to Christian beliefs. "Well, the people who did those things were not true Christians," I answered.


Some students cracked a smile at my simplistic response, as the professor retorted, "Oh, that's an easy way out, just disassociate from them."


I remembered that as a class, we had looked at the famous "Sermon on the Mount" of Jesus, while discussing the rise of Christianity in the West. "Do you all remember the Sermon on the Mount?" I continued. "In those chapters, Jesus defined Christianity. If people don't fit his definition, then they aren't true Christians, no matter how much they claim to be."


Surprisingly, the answer satisfied the typically "hostile to faith" crowd. After all, everyone understands that just because you claim something, doesn't mean you really believe it, obey it, or are an appropriate representative of it.


The Sermon on the Mount included virtues like love, purity, faithfulness, peacemaking, and giving ­ much the opposite of some of the evils mentioned earlier. The people who committed those crimes might have had a cross emblazoned on their shields, membership in a respectable church, or even had some knowledge of the Bible, but they weren't Christians, pure and simple.


In fact, the Sermon on the Mount is perhaps the greatest challenge to traditional religion ever proposed. Jesus taught that faith isn't about externals: following rules, attending meetings, giving money, or putting on a "holier-than-thou" show. Rather, he said that faith has to do with the heart, with becoming a new type of person, one whose decisions are guided by love and commitment to God. (Check it out for yourself in Matthew 5-7.)


Unfortunately, some people still think faith is about "agreeing" with a certain set of biblical facts (some churches even teach this). However, Jesus taught that faith has to go much deeper than intellectual knowledge or a prayer of agreement; He asked for our obedience, our allegiance.


Agreement and allegiance are vastly different. Anyone can agree. They might show up at church regularly, read Christian books or magazines, and even listen to Christian music. But true Christians ­ those with allegiance to Jesus Christ ­ go beyond "hearing" the message. They obey it.


I'm afraid many people are trusting the fact that they agree with certain doctrines to be a sufficient proof of their faith, not realizing Jesus demanded total, complete, no-holds-barred allegiance to his cause. After all, the word "Christian" means "little Christ" or "Christ follower."


I'm well aware there will always be hypocrites ­ people who claim the name of Jesus, but don't prove it by their lives. But I'm not going to let people like that, past or present, stand between me and my relationship with God, and I want to make sure that I never become one of them myself. I pledge to God my allegiance, not just my agreement.


"This is how we know we are in him: Whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did" (1 John 2:6, NIV)


I originally wrote this article for publication in the Marco Island Sun Times.

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