Historians tell us that people have used flags for over 4,000 years. A flag is often used by a person or people as a symbol informing others who they are. Long ago, knights carried flags into battle because it was hard to know who the knights were as they were dressed up and covered in armor, ready for battle. Flags were vital because they helped soldiers tell their friends from their enemies in battle. Today, every country in the world has a flag. One of God’s names, found in the Old Testament, is Jehovah-Nissi, meaning the Lord is our banner. Moses used this name for God after the Lord had granted victory over an enemy.
As believers, when we go into battle, the Lord is our banner when we go into life. In the days of old, a banner from a dominant warrior on the field of battle brought terror in their enemies’ hearts. What does the Christian have to fear? God is our banner.
In a very practical sense, the Christian lives under three flags. As a believer, I live under the flag of God’s kingdom. I am, first and foremost, a citizen of heaven. It is this citizenship that empowers me to fulfill the responsibility of the other two flags. As a believer, I also live under the country’s flag, where I am an earthly citizen. As an American, I live under our flag, and I, even as a Christian, especially as a believer, have responsibilities to that flag. Lastly, as a believer, I live under the flag of the country God calls me to serve. For me, this country and my country of citizenship are the same. For others, it will be in places where they are serving, like Zambia or Nicaragua.
All of this may seem a bit confusing. However, it does not have to be. Paul, in Romans 13, addresses how Christian citizens are to bear these three flags. While God calls us to live His heavenly values amid the world, we must also recognize that God has not abandoned this world. God is active and challenges us to be as well.
There is much to draw from Romans 13 but let me highlight a few. As we read through Romans 13:1-8, we learn that Christians are to submit to the laws of the land, as long as they do not violate the laws of God. In verse 8, we read, “Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another fulfilled the law.” This leads to a discussion on biblical principles about indebtedness. As we look at the whole of scripture, we discover that each of us should have as little financial debt as possible, where debt-free living is the goal. This leads to Paul’s teaching, found in Romans 13:8-10, that the Christian is always duty-bound to love everyone. This is reinforced in Romans 1:14, where Paul writes, “I am under obligation both to Greeks and to barbarians, both to the wise and to the foolish.” The believer is obligated to share the gospel lovingly in both word and deed. In fact, love is the essence of the Christian ethic. Christian citizens are able to honor the three flags in their lives by living by the law of love. Lastly, in Romans 13:11-14, Paul instructs that Christian citizens will honor the three flags of their lives when they are alert, morally sensitive, and on guard against immorality, knowing that Christ will return.
If Believers try on their own strength and wisdom to live out their citizenship under three flags, they will quickly become overwhelmed. The key to living under the flags of God’s kingdom, our earthly country, and our country of mission is to clothe ourselves in Jesus Christ, live under the law of love, and respect the authorities God has established. Again, God has not abandoned this world. He is active and calls us to be active as well.
As we give our lives to God as a living sacrificed and allow His Spirit to transform (metamorphose) us from the inside out, every thought and deed, we can live as we ought. It is only as a result of God’s transforming work in our life that we can love others in a way that is pleasing to God. This love manifests itself in part through our submission to governing authorities and our expression of love towards others. The response Paul urges us to give is to respond quickly in godliness because time is running out. Christ is coming. In short, live the godly life today as Christlike flag bearers. Soli Deo Gloria (Glory to God Alone)!