A few months ago, we had a guest speaker at our church, Charlotte Gambill, who started the service with everyone standing and putting their hands over their heart, to prepare their hearts to receive the word that was going to be preached. And I was reminded of what we Americans do when we recite the Pledge of Allegiance. For my non-American readers, the American pledge of Allegiance is as follows:

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.

When I was a kid in school, we recited it every morning. It’s still recited at sporting events and other formal ceremonies. Many of us Americans can recite it by heart, but have we really thought about what it means to pledge allegiance?

The Pledge of Allegiance is an American patriotic vow. Let’s look at what that means. (All definitions taken from Google)

Patriotic is defined as having or expressing devotion to and vigorous support for one’s country.
A vow is a solemn promise,
A pledge is a solemn promise or undertaking. To pledge is to commit by a solemn promise.
Allegiance is defined as loyalty or commitment of a subordinate to a superior or of an individual to a group or cause.

These are the relevant words of what it means to give a pledge of allegiance. And when we recite the pledge of allegiance, we put our right hand over our heart. Why? In looking for the answer, I found this interesting article on the Smithsonian website:

The gesture of putting your hand over your heart is a sign of respect that symbolizes dignity and honor. According to research, we tend to be more honest with others when we place our hands over our hearts. It can lead to us behaving more morally.

I love my country, and I love those who serve it, in the armed services, and in the police and fire departments. I have friends and family members who serve in both, and I consider people who do so heroes. When we pledge allegiance to the flag, we celebrate these heroes. But it seems to me that some things are more important than our country.

But it seems to me that some things are more important than our country. (A full blog post could be written on each of these, but for now I’m going to delve deep into one of them and briefly touch on the rest.)

I think it’s important to pledge allegiance to God. In Mark 12:30, Jesus said, “And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.’This is the first commandment.” (NKJV)

Love is an intense feeling of deep affection. The Greek word for love used in this verse is agapao and it means to welcome, to entertain, to be fond of, to love dearly.

The Greek word used for heart in this verse is kardia. The Hayford Bible Handbook defines kardia as:

The physical organ of the body, the center of the physical life, the seat of one’s personal life (both physical and spiritual), the center of one’s personality, the seat of one’s entire mental and moral activity, containing both rational and emotional elements. It is the seat of feelings, desires, joy, pain, and love. It is also the center for thought, understanding, and will.

The Greek word for souls used in Mark 12:30 is psuche. The Hayford Bible Handbook says this about psuche:

Compare “psychology”, “psychosis”, “psychiatrist”, “psychedelic”. Psuche is the soul and distinguished from the body. It is the seat of the affectations, will, desire, emotions, mind, reason, and understanding. Psuche is the inner self or the essence of life.

Mind is defined as the element of a person that enables them to be aware of the world and their experiences, to think, and to feel; the faculty of consciousness and thought; a person’s intellect.

The Greek word for mind used in Mark 12:30 is dianoia. The Hayford Bible Handbook says this about dianoia:

Literally, “a thinking through”. Dianoia combines nous, “mind” and dia, “through”. The word suggests understanding, insight, meditation, reflection, perception, the gift of apprehension, the faculty of thought. When this faculty is renewed by the Holy Spirit, the whole mindset changes from the fearful negativism of the carnal mind to the vibrant, positive thinking of the quickened spiritual mind.

Loving God with all our mind is one of the staples of Apologetics. (More on that here and here.)

Finally, Jesus says in Mark 12:30 to love the Lord our God with all our strength. Your strength is your good or beneficial quality or attribute. The Greek word used in this verse, ischus, means ability, force, strength, might.

Let us love the Lord our God with all our heart and with all our soul, and with all our mind, and with all our strength.

Psalms 119:106 says, “I have solemnly sworn to keep Your righteous judgments.” (HCSB)

It’s important to pledge allegiance to Jesus. (John 14:6; Rom 10:9-10) He is our Saviour, the one who died on the cross and rose from the dead for us. Even when we cursed and despised him, he still loved us and was willing to pay the price for us, even if there was a chance that we would reject him.

It’s important to pledge allegiance to God’s word.

31 Then Jesus said to those Jews who believed Him, “If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. 32 And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” John 8:31-32 NKJV

We often hear John 8:32 quoted while ignoring John 8:31.

It’s important to pledge allegiance to the local church. Notice I said the local church, not local church. There is a difference. The most common verse quoted from the bible for this is Hebrews 10:25, “forsake not the assembly of the brethren” but I like the wording of the Complete Jewish Bible even better:

 not neglecting our own congregational meetings, as some have made a practice of doing, but, rather, encouraging each other. Heb 10:25 CJB

The local church was considered very important to our early church fathers. Here’s one example.

It’s important to pledge allegiance to your spouse. Husbands, love your wives as Christ loved the church. And how did Christ love the church? He gave his life for it. And wives, love your husbands. Pray for each other. Lift each other up.

It’s great that we are patriotic about our country. We have a great country. But it helps to keep things in perspective and pledge allegiance to things that truly matter. This isn’t to say that pledging allegiance to our country isn’t important. But let us live ever mindful of the presence of God, of his way of doing things, and of his word. Let us cherish our allegiances that are truly important.

(All English definitions taken from Google.)