I hate to give the devil credit, but it seems like he did an excellent job in dividing Americans over what counts as patriotism this past weekend with the whole “take a knee” or “I stand” thing. The argument seemed to generate a lot more heat than actual light, and it was somewhat discouraging for me to see even Christians divide over this issue. In the midst of all the Twitter firestorm, I asked myself how we as believers are supposed to be thinking about this.
Now, I know political topics like these can tend to bring out a lot of passion in all of us. Know that if what I say offends you, please have the humility to ask yourself if what I’m saying is biblical. If you aren’t a Christian, realize that this is not necessarily addressed at you but to my brothers and sisters in the faith. Satan would like nothing more than to divide believers over things that, in the grand scheme of things, are not really worth dividing over.
Getting straight to the point. I personally have stood for the National Anthem, took of my cap and put my hand on my heart. That is just what I was always taught to do. The ideals and principles that created this nation are ones that I believe in. And I respect the men and women who have served this country and fought bravely so I can enjoy the freedom that I have. In fact, both my grandfathers fought in the Korean War and one received a Purple Heart. That being said, I am a citizen of the kingdom of God first and foremost. The Bible refers to me as a believer in Jesus Christ a foreigner and an exile. My citizenship is in heaven. I am an merely an ambassador here, I am not a permanent citizen. (1 Pet. 2:9-11, Phil 3:20, 2 Cor. 5:20)
For professional athletes to choose to kneel for the National Anthem cannot possibly be an offense to me, because they are not disrespecting my ultimate home and motherland. From God’s perspective, America is a relatively new nation. And there is coming a time when America will be no more. All the kingdoms of this world will be the kingdom of Christ. Jesus will put an end to all of these nations, and only his nation will be. (Dan. 2:44, Rev. 11:15)
My identity does not come from me being an American, my identity is in Christ. So-called disrespecting a flag or an Anthem does not disrespect my real identity. And that gets me to my next point. What these professional athletes are protesting is injustice, or at least that is what they say, and I don’t have any reason to judge their motives. (Mt. 7:1-2) In fact, I am commanded to not judge their motives. There have been many instances of police officers killing black men that were completely unjustified, I would hope that we all can admit that. We have cases like Walter Scott, Philando Castile, Eric Garner, Tamir Rice and Tyre King as examples that there has been some reckless and awful behavior perpetrated by a handful of cops.
This needs to be addressed. But all the kneeling in the world, or all the philanthropy, or all the legislation in the world is not going to change the human heart. The Bible says that, apart from Christ, our natural condition is to lie, steal, kill and destroy. When these officers have killed these young black men, some say that they are due to racial bias. That may or may not be, depending on the case. I am not at all denying racial bias. It exists. The nonsense we saw in Charlottesville tells us clearly we have a long way to go. What I am denying is that “blackness”, or “whiteness” is what defines our identity. People who see themselves or others more or less valuable due to their race are not seeing things from God’s perspective. Jesus defines our identity. He determines our value, and he demonstrated his value for us by his death on the cross. He destroys all distinctions between all classes, nationalities, cultures or any other social structure. (Eph. 2:13-20)
When the church was founded, there was a division between Jews and Gentiles. Even years after the body of Christ had started, it was still exclusively Jewish until Peter had a vision and went and preached to the Gentiles, Roman soldiers at that. Peter went and preached to an occupying army with a completely different culture than his own. When these men he preached to received the Holy Spirit, he said “Now I truly understand that God doesn’t show favoritism,but in every nation the person who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him.” (Acts 10)
Paul said in his letter to the church at Collosse “In Christ there is not Greek and Jew, circumcision and uncircumcision, barbarian, Scythian, slave and free; but Christ is all and in all.” (Col. 3:11) In other words, Christ destroys the distinctions between class, between ethnicity, between culture, between nationalism. If Paul were here in modern times, perhaps he would say “In Christ there is neither Jew nor non-Jew, American or Iranian, black or white, educated or under-educated, rich or poor; all are one in Christ”
It’s interesting that Paul names the Scythians. Search their history, as a culture they had some pretty depraved traditions and a history of violence. Yet if they were in Christ, they were a new creation, and just as loved and accepted as anyone else. They were no longer Scythian or Barbarian, but Christian.
Paul wrote to the Corinthians “From now on, then, we do not know anyone from a worldly perspective. Even if we have known Christ from a worldly perspective, yet now we no longer know him in this way. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has passed away, and see, the new has come! Everything is from God, who has reconciled us to himself through Christ and has given us the ministry of reconciliation. That is, in Christ, God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and he has committed the message of reconciliation to us. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, since God is making his appeal through us. We plead on Christ’s behalf: “Be reconciled to God.”
We are not to know people after their nationality, their skin color, their culture, their race, social class or anything else. We who are ministers of reconciliation have the answer to the race problem. And it’s this: The race problem is really a sin problem. Without Christ defining your value, you will try and find it in other things– whether it be your race, your nationality, your deeds, your mistakes, your social status, your physical appearance, your intelligence and so-on. But the ground is level at the foot of the Cross. We all have sinned and fallen short, and only Jesus can make us new and give us a different identity. Only God through Christ can make all things new. Our message is to be reconciled to Him!