2 Kings 6:1-23; 1 Cor. 5:9-6:8; Matt. 5:38-48
“But they are disrespecting the flag!”
“But they are disrespecting the military!”
First, this isn’t about a flag. It is about people. I think those folks on one knee have been pretty clear about what they are doing.
Second, it isn’t that simple. This is about our country’s deeper values. It’s about liberty – what the flag stands for. It is about far deeper than the military, or a flag, or an anthem. It is about people valuing people, something that Jesus hits home today in the Sermon on the Mount. Valuing people was something Jesus spent a lot of time doing.
‘You have heard that it was said, “An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.” 39But I say to you, Do not resist an evildoer. But if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also; 40and if anyone wants to sue you and take your coat, give your cloak as well; 41and if anyone forces you to go one mile, go also the second mile. 42Give to everyone who begs from you, and do not refuse anyone who wants to borrow from you.
43 ‘You have heard that it was said, “You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.” 44But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.
Jesus spoke these words into a political powderkeg, a time when the rich abused the poor and took advantage of the rules. They conquered and enslaved others. The oppression was palpable by those hearing Jesus’ words. The Sermon on the Mount is IN YOUR FACE, then and now. It is counter-cultural. It is something that stops many so-called “Christians” in their tracks. Stunned.
Jesus was interested in turning power on its head. He was interested in comforting the afflicting and afflicting the comfortable.
Enter Colin Kaepernick. While I disagree with his style, he is finally getting his wish. The dialogue has begun. The narrative has been revealed. The racist underbelly of our country is finally getting exposed.
Nevermind that this all started as a protest to police brutality. And nevermind that these groups on one knee or with locked arms have reminded us of that at every turn.
Nevermind that the Dallas Cowboys didn’t actually kneel during the National Anthem. They knelt before it. Still we love to jump to conclusions without the facts and turn into reactionaries. We are Americans. We often don’t care about the details. All we care about is hyperbole, headlines, and tweets these days.
Nevermind that worshiping a flag isn’t patriotism; it is idolatry (and I think the Bible had just a few things to say about that (HINT: Commandment numero uno)).
Nevermind that the National Anthem was written by Francis Scott Key on the heels of the War of 1812 when black Americans had turned to fight with the British to “win their freedom”. Nevermind that the anti-black third verse of this song was probably part of that history and was probably part of the reason it took over 100 years to adopt as our National Anthem. (Well that and it is just way too hard to sing for the average American).
Nevermind that the prevailing “Love it or Leave it” dogma of the moment is a distraction from the deeper love of country these people on one knee are desperately trying to show us – and the incomprehension and hate that these protesters are met with helps us to conveniently miss the racist undercurrent of our lives, the white privilege many of us experience, and the liberties being violated every day. Nevermind that.
And nevermind that I fear that no matter how minorities try to bring attention to the injustices they see in this country, it will never be deemed a “good way” by some.
Nevermind that you may want a break from all the negativity and talk of racism, and you just want to enjoy your football game without all the distractions. Nevermind that you feel inconvenienced by all these weighty issues and just want a time out. Nevermind that black people never get a time out from being black.
Nevermind that Russia tampered with our election and that the people of Puerto Rico are in dire straights, and we are talking about people kneeling. (Do I need to say that one again?)
And dare I say, nevermind that lost in the one-kneed peaceful gestures just happens to be the same deeper values of the Bible (and that this country was founded on) that they are quietly calling us to – drawing us closer to a love of neighbor that looks beyond difference, beyond fear.
Mind instead that Jesus drops a bomb shell on us today. It is a bomb shell of ACTION. He expects us to ACT ACCORDINGLY. He expects us to MIND all those “neverminds” above.
If we are going to claim to be Christian, we better start acting like it. This means more than respecting our neighbor. It means LOVING our neighbor. PERIOD.
That is all. And that is it.
And if you want to do something to help all this unrest in our country, instead of exploding into some rant or angry comment on my feed, instead put down your anger, open your clenched fists, receive the love and grace that Christ offers us today, in fact open wide your arms, and embrace a neighbor. Be it a hug, or a similar gesture of neighborly love, go out into the world and begin to show the love that Christ calls us to.
It is not an option today. It is a requirement. Jesus’ requirement to each of us – daily.
There’s Christianity on its knees.