Since the language of “Kingdom” implies citizenship and allegiance, it’s instructive to see what the kingdoms of this world think of citizenship. I decided to take a look at the law of the kingdom in which I reside, the United States of America. The basis for defining citizenship in the United States is the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution, the first sentence of which reads:
All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside.
Simply, you are a citizen of the U.S. if you were either born here, or naturalized, and are subject to the nation’s jurisdiction. Born is easy, and obvious. Naturalization is defined by a completely different and much more complex law. It’s also more relevant to our subject of Kingdom citizenship, for the simple reason that nobody becomes a citizen of the Kingdom of God by natural birth. We are all naturalized citizens of the Kingdom of God, if we are citizens at all. While I’m not saying that Kingdom naturalization is identical to American naturalization, there are some interesting parallels we can draw out. You can see the entire Immigration and Nationality Act Title III here, and it’s worth a look. The meat of the law is in section 337, subsections (a) and (b):
SEC. 337. [8 U.S.C. 1448]
(a) A person who has applied for naturalization shall, in order to be and before being admitted to citizenship, take in a public ceremony before the Attorney General or a court with jurisdiction under section 310(b) an oath (1) to support the Constitution of the United States; (2) to renounce and abjure absolutely and entirely all allegiance and fidelity to any foreign prince, potentate, state, or sovereignty of whom or which the applicant was before a subject or citizen; (3) to support and defend the Constitution and the laws of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; (4) to bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and (5) (A) to bear arms on behalf of the United States when required by the law, or (B) to perform noncombatant service in the Armed Forces of the United States when required by the law, or (C) to perform work of national importance under civilian direction when required by the law. Any such person shall be required to take an oath containing the substance of clauses (1) through (5) of the preceding sentence, except that a person who shows by clear and convincing evidence to the satisfaction of the Attorney General that he is opposed to the bearing of arms in the Armed Forces of the United States by reason of religious training and belief shall be required to take an oath containing the substance of clauses (1) through (4) and clauses (5)(B) and (5)(C), and a person who shows by clear and convincing evidence to the satisfaction of the Attorney General that he is opposed to any type of service in the Armed Forces of the United States by reason of religious training and belief shall be required to take an oath containing the substance of clauses (1) through (4) and clause (5)(C). The term “religious training and belief” as used in this section shall mean an individual’s belief in a relation to a Supreme Being involving duties superior to those arising from any human relation, but does not include essentially political, sociological, or philosophical views or a merely personal moral code. In the case of the naturalization of a child under the provisions of section 322 of this title the Attorney General may waive the taking of the oath if in the opinion of the Attorney General the child is unable to understand its meaning.
(b) In case the person applying for naturalization has borne any hereditary title, or has been of any of the orders of nobility in any foreign state, the applicant shall in addition to complying with the requirements of subsection (a) of this section, make under oath in the same public ceremony in which the oath of allegiance is administered, an express renunciation of such title or order of nobility, and such renunciation shall be recorded as a part of such proceedings.
Of interest here are several points. To become a citizen of the United States, you must swear to:
- Suppport the Constitution of the United States;
- Renounce the allegiance and claim of any other nation, state, or sovereign;
- “Support and defend” the Constitution and laws, and “bear true faith and allegience” to them;
- Serve the United States either by bearing arms or noncombatant military or civilian service, when required (note that religious conscientious objection to military service is permitted, but does not excuse the citizen from civilian service)
- If you have any title or nobility in your previous citizenship, you must renounce that as well (I never knew this!)
As for analogs to the Kingdom of God, I note that we, too, have a constitution. Though Christians can and do argue about what that constitution actually is (see my series on Biblical inspiration), I would submit that in Jesus’ kindgom the Sermon on the Mount is a pretty good candidate. It is also certainly true that we must renounce the claims of other sovereigns if God is our king. . .for Jesus pointed out that we cannot serve two masters (Matt. 6:24), and that no one who throws his lot in with Jesus but turns back is fit for the kingdom (Luke 9:62). While I would argue (and have written) that one cannot take up arms for the Kingdom of God, we are certainly required to serve the King, and Matt. 25:31-46 gives us a pretty good clue what that will look like. It is finally also true that earthly rank is meaningless in the Kingdom of God (Luke 22:24-30 and elsewhere).