I Pledge Allegiance
Have you ever suffered for your allegiance? I am a fan of the Miami Dolphins. There. I said it. It’s not easy to be a fan of the Miami Dolphins. In fact, my allegiance to them started as a complete joke when they were the worst team in the history of the National Football League, but here we are, over a decade later. I once drove from Bismarck, North Dakota to Miami, Florida just to watch them lose before driving back the very next day. So yeah, you could say I’m a real fan.
And as a real fan, I understand that there is a cost. I find joy in the team’s success, but more often I pay for their shortcomings. There are people in this country who, without ever speaking a word to me, dislike me purely based on the colors on my favorite jersey. I feel my phone vibrate every time they mess up, receiving texts from friends of mine who cheer for rival teams. There’s a cost, but I understand the cost. I, in some very small ways, suffer for my allegiance to some very overpaid entertainers. And yet, that doesn’t stop me. I love talking about the Miami Dolphins!
Isn’t it wild how closely this parallels this gap, the fear of rejection? What is it that causes me to not only expect, but also endure this rejection? It’s a love for and an allegiance to the reason for that rejection. In fact, as crazy as it seems, being a Miami Dolphins fan has worked its way into my very identity. “Hi, I’m Andrew. I am a husband, father, and a fan of the Miami Dolphins.” No one really bats an eye at that. But what would happen to our fear of being rejected for Christ’s sake if we proudly proclaimed our allegiance to Him as vocally as we did our favorite football team or restaurant?
What would happen if we loved talking about what God is doing in our lives as much as we loved talking about quarterback statistics? I think we would see a shift in our own perspectives. Through those simple calibrations, we would begin to change. Suddenly it wouldn’t be as jarring when we’re rejected for our faith because we’ve made our relationship with Jesus a part of our identity, not just a casual interest.
Let’s turn to Scripture.
Mark 8:31-32—[Jesus] then began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that He must be killed and after three days rise again. He spoke plainly about this, and Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him.
Remember that whole thing about Jesus being our example? Well, here’s another instance where we find Him telling His followers what to expect, but Peter, likely due to his love for Jesus, pulls Him aside and says, “No, Jesus, don’t talk like that. Everyone should love you! You’re amazing!” And then we get another wonderful piece of evidence that God understands and even applauds our rejection for the sake of Christ.
Mark 8:33—But when Jesus turned and looked at His disciples, He rebuked Peter. “Get behind me, Satan!” He said. “You do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.”
“Peter,” Jesus says, “Why wouldn’t I be rejected? I’m completely upending everything people believe and showing them what God’s way really is! I’m walking around as one who is truly alive in a world full of the dead. Don’t chase comfort, God has a plan!” Then He begins to explain. Listen closely because there’s great comfort and great confidence in these words for the one struggling with the fear of being rejected.
Mark 8:34-36—Then He called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it. What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul?
Our own human way, the way of comfort, the way of safety, the way of non-confrontation leads away from Christ, not toward Him. What good is it, asks Jesus, for us to live comfortably, if to attain that comfort we must hide our identity as Christ-followers? Jesus’ call here plainly lays out the cost of following Him, the cost of being imitators of Christ, the cost of living His way. My instinct is safety and comfort, but His instinct is truth and transformation. My instinct is to shrink back from potentially volatile situations, but His instinct is to overcome volatility with hope, bringing people from death to life, even if it cost Him everything. Pledging our allegiance to Christ is openly acknowledging that His way is better than our way, then trusting Him enough to obey.