Allegiance and Worship (13 Sep 2015)

Singapore’s General Elections on Sep 11 is just over! After days of active campaigning the ruling party and opposition parties will have the mandate from the people of Singapore on who they want to continue to govern Singapore. Some have commented that the rallies in full cry are like religious experiences. In voting, we also show our allegiance, in a way.

As believers in Christ, we indicate that our allegiance is to the Lord. When we come to worship God (there are so many other things we may want to do on a Sunday), among other things, we are also showing to the world that our allegiance is to God. What should our posture be?

We can take a leaf from Revelation, where John falls to the ground at this sight: ‘When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. But he laid his right hand on me, saying, “Fear not, I am the first and the last.’ (Rev 1:17). John’s response is one that is typical of Bible characters who unexpectedly find themselves in the presence of the divine. The first vision of John models the reverence and wonder that are appropriate in meeting God. As given in Revelation, John would not condone the feel-good worship or lip service prayers. John will have little patience for the kind of worship indicating as if we are in control or summoning his help to fix our problems. How could we have the posture of reverence and awe?

From Revelation, we see John’s message is to a people suffering under the Roman Empire, where there is forced extraction of goods and taxes to support the imperial bureaucracy and the movement of goods out of the provinces to support the elite. Through its language about Babylon (Rev 17) and the harlot (Rev 18), we see the ‘merchants of the world’ getting rich by exploiting the weak and those under control by Rome.

In the context, it is tough for the Jews to trade or survive unless they show allegiance to their patron, and bow down to the emperor, kings and pagan gods. In the situation where there is exploitation and abuse of power, the suffering Jews were commanded to ‘come out from her’ (Rev 18:4). It is to separate themselves from the things of the world, to be holy. Likewise, we will need to demonstrate our allegiance to God, not to materialism, excessive consumption of goods etc. in our lifestyle. To have a posture of reverence as we come to worship, we will need to be holy on the other six days. 

Bethesda Chapel is desirous that we come with a posture of reverence and awe, to be on time, to be prepared to meet our King.  ‘Behold I stand at the door and knock..’ (Rev 3:20). Also, as we come to worship, as Eugene Peterson puts it, Christ knocks on the door to invite us, like the ‘wretched, pitiable’ Christians, to open the door and come to feast at the bounty of the Lord’s table. We remember that God’s grace alone allows sinners to enter into His divine presence, to move beyond terror to grace, and we respond in reverence and gratitude that such a miracle is possible.

Dr Ler Soon Lay