Posted: Friday, March 11, 2016 7:00 am

My father remarked the other day that my grandfather, a Presbyterian minister, would occasionally invite faculty from the Columbia Theological Seminary in Decatur to preach at the church where he ministered.

Dad remembers one Sunday during the McCarthy era of our national life when a faculty member preached a sermon titled “My Country, Right or Wrong.”

Dad did not remember the content of the sermon or the biblical text from which the professor preached, but the title of the sermon was firmly written in his long-term memory. The title presents a troubling choice.

I am proud to be an American and am grateful for the gifts and benefits of that citizenship, but “my country, right or wrong?”

First and foremost I am a citizen of God’s Kingdom. Those of us who profess to follow Jesus are ourselves resident aliens.

Yes, we are in the words of God to the exiles in Babylon (Jeremiah 29:1-8) to settle down, build houses, plant gardens, engage in the life of the country. We are to pray for and work for the welfare of the country, and to understand that when the country thrives we will thrive. But our citizenship is in God’s Kingdom, our ultimate allegiance is to King Jesus, not to this country or to any leader of this country.

A pastor who wrestled deeply with the implications of this choice was Dietrich Bonhoeffer.

Many of the faculty at Bonhoeffer’s university embraced the Nazi party. Bonhoeffer protested that the church had forgotten where her ultimate allegiance lies. He insisted that the church had an obligation to challenge the legitimacy of the state’s actions; that the church had an obligation to render aid to the victims of the state’s actions even if those victims were not a part of the Christian community; and if the state turned justice into injustice, order into disorder, the church was obliged to move from indirect action to direct political means.

For the rest of the post…

Advertisements