Subject: What America and Christianity have in common: Exclusivism
Exodus 20:1 “I am the Lord your God, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. You shall have no other gods before Me.”
Section 337.1 of the United States Code of Federal Regulations contains the specific language of the oath that anyone must profess publicly in order to become a citizen of the United States of America. It is known as the ‘Naturalization Oath of Allegiance to the United States of America’. Here are the words:
“I hereby declare, on oath, that I absolutely and entirely renounce and abjure all allegiance and fidelity to any foreign prince, potentate, state, or sovereignty, of whom or which I have heretofore been a subject or citizen; that I will support and defend the Constitution and laws of the United States of America against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I will bear arms on behalf of the United States when required by the law; that I will perform noncombatant service in the Armed Forces of the United States when required by the law; that I will perform work of national importance under civilian direction when required by the law; and that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; so help me God.”
There are three very exclusive “oaths of allegiance” America expects anyone wishing to become a citizen to publicly profess: 1) I completely renounce any former allegiance to any other foreign sovereign, giving my complete fidelity only to the United States, 2) I take responsibility to support and defend the Constitution and the laws for how our nation is to be governed, 3) I make these oaths by my own free will, knowing there is a God who will hold me accountable one day to my oaths.
All three of America’s demands on its citizens are designed to ensure exclusive fidelity to her. And they have striking parallels to our verse for this week, the opening verse of Exodus chapter 20, where God introduces Himself to the nation of Israel (“I am the Lord your God”). Here’s how:
In oath #1, America demands that anyone wishing to live in this country must pledge complete fidelity to it. To be an American citizen is the epitome of exclusivity – you must proclaim not only that there is no other nation to which you give complete allegiance, but also that you renounce all other foreign kings and governments. In Exodus 20:1, the God of the Bible declares the exact same expectation: “You shall have no other gods before Me.” Jesus Christ announced this same standard when He came on the scene: “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” (John14:6).
In oath #2, America makes another demand of anyone wishing to be a citizen: they must abide by her Code – the Constitution and the laws of the land. Guess what God explains in the 20th chapter of Exodus right after He introduces Himself in verse 1? He issues His Laws – the Ten Commandments – the legal Code that is to govern them as a free people. Like our Constitution and laws, these are not suggestions or guidelines. These ten are the Code by which Israel and all mankind are to set their foundation for their values as a distinct nation under the protection and leadership of Almighty God.
Finally, in oath #3, the focus is on individual freedom. It is important to note that year in and year out, America attracts the largest number of immigrants in the world. Since 1981, more than half a million foreigners have become US citizens, with this number eclipsing a million beginning in 2004. Why do so many people want to be American citizens, instead of other countries? Because no other nation on earth has created a system whose standard is based on the freedom of the individual. In Exodus 20:1, the nation of Israel follow God into the wilderness for only one reason – to be freed from Egyptian slavery. This is the same God proclaimed by His Son, Jesus Christ, nearly 1,400 years later in Jerusalem: “If the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed.” (John 8:36). Of course, here God offers a freedom much greater than just the freedom from the bondage of government. Christ is offering freedom from the bondage of my sin, a penalty that I can only be freed from if I give Him my exclusive allegiance as my Lord and Savior.
This biblical model for a free nation is the very same model upon which America thrives – exclusivism that centers on freedom within the framework of a Code. And what truly frees each of us isn’t the ability to do whatever we want. As the Naturalization Oath of Allegiance to the United States of America states, it’s doing what we ought. It’s the foundation of the value system our great nation is built on – just look on any American coin and you’ll find it: “In God We Trust, Liberty, and one Nation under God.”