Would Jesus Fly The Confederate Flag?
Some people say that "Hindsight is 20/20." I guess it's true most of the time. When I've actually been honest about what I see in hindsight, I've benefited from it greatly. When I've ignored it, however, I typically crash and burn.
If we use hindsight wisely, it enables us to see things not as we would like to remember them, but as they actually are. It gives us, if we are willing to gaze into it, an unvarnished, unblemished image of the truth.
Which brings me to the recent debates about the Confederate battle flag, and it's removal from state flags, and from flying over state capitols.
I don't want to re-hash history regarding the Confederate battle flag. I don't see any merit in engaging in arguments about how the battle flag is about heritage. I see no benefit in turning this debate into something that it isn't.Here's the truth about the Confederate battle flag: Despite how some people see it as a symbol of heritage and proud Southern-ness, there are many people who see it as a divisive symbol that reminds them of a hurtful past.
What I am actually more interested in, however, is the surprisingly large number of Christians (if my Facebook feed and internet news feeds are any indication) who are defending the Confederate battle flag, and doing so in very vocal and sometimes overtly nasty ways.
I noticed one person, who posted a decidedly angry post on her Facebook feed about how certain people are attacking her Southern heritage by trying to take her flag away. Her feed also included an inspirational Bible verse meme she had posted earlier. You could see both on her Facebook page simultaneously.The symbols we choose to venerate tell the world what we truly value and who we really are.
Like we do in far too many other cultural issues, I think that a lot of us Christians are landing on the wrong side of history on this one because we are engaging in the wrong debates.
For Christians the issue of the Confederate battle flag shouldn't be about about freedom of speech or expression. It shouldn't be about the supposed culture wars between progressivism and conservatism. It shouldn't be about political correctness.
What it should be about--is the Gospel.
The Apostle Paul, who wrote a great deal of the New Testament wrote this about Christian freedom and how it should be used:
13 You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love. 14 For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” 15 If you bite and devour each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other.As Americans we are free to say what we want in support of the Confederate battle flag. We might even be free to plant one on our front lawn, stick a decal on our car, or tattoo it on our arm.
But as Christians, we have the obligation to ask this one simple question before we do. "Would Jesus fly the Confederate flag?" Or more specifically to my point, "Would Jesus defend the Confederate flag on Facebook?"
For the Apostle Paul, the spread of the Gospel of Jesus Christ was so important that he was quite willing to "become all things to all people" in order to preach it effectively. He was willing to give up his own freedoms in order to be a more effective witness for Christ. If he felt like something that he was doing was keeping someone from following Jesus, he would lay it down in a heartbeat.
You can see where I am going with this.
Regardless of how we might feel about the Confederate battle flag, the fact is it is a symbol of hate to more than a few people around us. And as such, defending it, displaying it and venerating it is a hinderance to the Gospel.
Two weeks ago Dylan Roof, a young, angry, white supremacist, entered Emmanuel AME church in Charleston, SC on a Wednesday night. The historically black church was hosting a Bible study that evening with a handful of people in attendance, including the church's pastor. They welcomed him in, and invited him to join them. And an hour later, he drew a gun and began shooting. When it was all over, nine people were dead.
They welcomed him in.
It would have been well within the bounds of their Christian freedom to have turned him away, shut the door, kept him outside. But they believed the Gospel message in the Bible they were studying, and they set aside their freedoms to welcome him to the table.
You see, the Gospel--the Good News is bigger than all of our debates over freedoms, history and heritage. The Good News is more powerful than hate and division. The Good News is what will keep us from wounding our brothers and sisters and tearing one another apart.
It's time to put down the flag, and lift up the Good News.
The Good News will save the world.