First off, let me say that this is going to be hard. Depending on your demographic, you could be struggling with a variety of emotions including, but not limited to: anger, disgust, hate, sadness, bewilderment, despair, indifference or maybe even apathy. Regardless, it’s difficult to discuss this, especially with people who don’t share your sentiment. I’m not absolutely certain, but I’m going to go out on a limb and say there have likely been many ‘heated discussions’ around the water coolers of America’s workplaces over this one. It’s difficult to make sense of it all really. Some feel that the America they have deeply love is slipping away while others feel like this country is finally getting the chaos and unrest it deserves.
As a Christian, I believe it’s desperately imperative to strain a situation like this through the filter of the Holy Book. Now, you may think, “But, the Bible doesn’t say anything about this?” And you would be correct; Scripture doesn’t mention a thing about this issue specifically. As a matter of fact, I guarantee that if you opened your favorite Bible app right now and typed the words, America, patriotism, flag or National Anthem into the concordance search bar, it would net zero results. Zero. You already knew that though, didn’t you? However, while none of those buzzwords are present, I do believe applicable principles are there.
Some of these points are soaked with Scripture, while others simply contain my honest point of view; hopefully all will provide new insight or, at the very least, provoke some thought.
1.This is not a race issue.
The temptation to blame society’s problems on race is real because it’s the low road. It’s the easy way out. It’s the blame game. And that game has been going on since the Garden of Eden. If you really wanted to blame somebody, you could probably nominate the, not-so-subtly biased media with their incendiary rhetoric and propaganda that they force feed us every live long day. Truth be told, it would benefit every single one of us to power down, and take regular breaks from media altogether.
One thing that the human race, as a whole can’t seem to get past is this: there IS NOT a “master race”. God’s people have struggled with this one too. One example is the Apostle Peter in Acts 10. God had to basically force him to go and meet with a guy named Cornelius that was entirely different from him. The purpose of this meeting was to spread the gospel by crossing cultural boundaries, racial divides and deeply held personal beliefs. Do you know what Peter stated at the end of this little encounter? “Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons: But in every nation he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him.” In other words, the gospel is utterly color blind. It’s not partial to skin tone, culture or nationality. And if the gospel is not partial? Well, it’s safe to say that we shouldn’t be either.
2. Talk is really cheap
There seems to be a Facebook feud started every other second. Somebody says something that somebody else disagrees with, and boom… you’ve got threads of replies for DAYS. It doesn’t ever seem like it amounts up to much of anything, but gosh, it sure is entertaining. Should you ever find yourself tangled up in a fiery Facebook feud, as you craft the perfect response directed towards that stupid person that you have likely never met, here’s what you soon discover. In real life, nobody gives a flying flip about your epic convo battle on social media. Once you put your phone back in your pocket, or purse or whatever other creepy crevice you discover, you soon figure out that the gas station attendant doesn’t bow as you enter her store. Your coworkers will not kneel waiting for you to knight them as you clock in. You’re not going to receive an Emmy, a Grammy, an Oscar or even a participation trophy for your crazy-good comeback.
Here’s what I’m saying. Posting on social media is really cheap. As in, free. As in, anybody and everybody has an opinion on E-V-E-R-Y-T-H-I-N-G. I’m pretty sure somebody on World Wide Web is even criticizing China’s baby panda population this very minute. So, don’t be surprised when someone rubs you the wrong way, or likewise when your viewpoint offends someone else.
After all that’s what makes the “freedom of speech” so beautiful. I have the right to disagree with you as you have the right to disagree with me, but I also reserve the right to disagree with your disagreement. America.
3. It’s okay to be quiet.
It is absolutely okay to remain silent when you don’t know what to say. It is even possible to NOT say everything that pops in your head. I don’t advocate sticking your head in the sand, and pretending the world is made of cotton candy. Just know, silence is permissible sometimes, especially when you’re uninformed. Remember, there’s “a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;” Ecclesiastes 3:7.
You could even keep some of that crazy to yourself and save it for a rainy day. “A fool uttereth all his mind: but a wise man keepeth it in til afterwards.” Proverbs 29:11. As a matter of fact, sometimes it’s just better to not let any of the crazy out at all. “Even a fool, when he holdeth his peace, is counted wise: and he that shutteth his lips is esteemed a man of understanding.” Proverbs 17:28. So, you can be an absolute moron, and with a few well-timed smiles and head nods, appear to possess more than two brain cells. In the wise words of that penguin on Madagascar, sometimes it’s better just to, “Smile and wave boys… smile and wave.”
4. You will only answer for you.
I still cling to the Bible. I would say I’m sorry, but I’m not. From Creation to the virgin birth to the resurrection of Christ to the great tribulation, I believe it all. I also believe the part where every single person that has ever lived will give an account for themselves and their actions to a Holy God. No lawyers, no media spin, no democrats or republicans, no ulterior motives and also, no excuses. You… and a just God. If you actually stop and ponder that, it will (and should) scare the living day lights out of you. At the end of your life, you will answer for yourself. You won’t answer for the actions of your spouse, your kids, your parents or even your third cousins. You also won’t answer for professional athletes, music artists or even politicians. Only you.
As a younger preacher (not too long ago), I felt that it was not only my job to preach what I thought was right, but also to keep tabs on everyone I was preaching to, thereby making sure that they, “played by the rules”. My unofficial title might have been “PP”, as in “Preacher Policeman”. I’d go around and politely cite anyone who didn’t follow the letter of the law to a tee, or either I’d find a way to work the offending party into a sermon, thereby attempting to “guilt” them into doing the right thing. You know what I eventually figured out though? That practice was not only extraordinarily Pharisaical, it’s was overwhelmingly exhausting and incredibly self-defeating. I felt as if those who didn’t “obey my commands” were personally against me, when in reality, I was the one who made it personal.
My point is… you, do right. No matter what. If everyone else turns against you, do right. Ultimately, that’s all you’re responsible for anyway.
5. Remembering is right
In Joshua 4, God instructed Joshua to direct one man from each of the twelve tribes of Israel to pick a stone up out of the Jordan river. They were to carry these stones to Gilgal and then place them in a specific spot as a reminder to future generations of God’s mighty interventions at the Jordan and the Red Sea when He supernaturally paved the way for them.
God did a special thing with Israel. God also did a special thing with America. Does she have a checkered past? Yep. Does she have issues to overcome still? Yep again. But we still need to remember and reverence those who have gone before us.
I really love this nation and what she stands for. Every single time I hear the first six notes of our National Anthem, something happens inside my chest. My heart swells with pride as I try to imagine what Francis Scott Key saw as he penned those legendary words. I also recall stories that WWII vets shared with me over the years about being scared to death as they stormed the beaches of Normandy while they watched their buddies unmercifully slaughtered by machine gun fire.
Too many people have given up a life of comfort for a life of blood, sweat and tears. Too many families have given up weeks, months and years without their heroes at home. Too many have returned home in a casket draped with Old Glory.
Have you ever had the privilege of watching a ceremony where members of the armed forces fold an American flag? I have, and it brought me to tears. Read this.
Symbols for the Folds of the Flag
“The 1st fold of our flag is a symbol of life.
The 2nd fold is a symbol of our belief in eternal life.
The 3rd fold is made in honor and remembrance of the veteran departing our ranks, and who gave a portion of his or her life for the defense of our country to attain peace throughout the world.
The 4th fold represents our weaker nature; as American citizens trusting in God, it is to Him we turn in times of peace, as well as in times of war, for His divine guidance.
The 5th fold is a tribute to our country, for in the words of Stephen Decatur, ‘Our country, in dealing with other countries, may she always be right, but it is still our country, right or wrong.’
The 6th fold is for where our hearts lie. It is with our heart that we pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the republic for which it stands, one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.
The 7th fold is a tribute to our armed forces, for it is through the armed forces that we protect our country and our flag against all enemies, whether they be found within or without the boundaries of our republic.
The 8th fold is a tribute to the one who entered into the valley of the shadow of death, that we might see the light of day, and to honor our mother, for whom it flies on Mother’s Day.
The 9th fold is a tribute to womanhood, for it has been through their faith, love, loyalty and devotion that the character of the men and women who have made this country great have been molded.
The 10th fold is a tribute to father, for he, too, has given his sons and daughters for the defense of our country since he or she was first-born.
The 11th fold, in the eyes of Hebrew citizens, represents the lower portion of the seal of King David and King Solomon and glorifies, in their eyes, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
The 12th fold, in the eyes of a Christian citizen, represents an emblem of eternity and glorifies, in their eyes, God the Father, the Son and Holy Ghost.
When the flag is completely folded, the stars are uppermost, reminding us of our national motto, ‘In God We Trust.’
After the flag is completely folded and tucked in, it has the appearance of a cocked hat, ever reminding us of the soldiers who served under Gen. George Washington and the sailors and Marines who served under Capt. John Paul Jones and were followed by their comrades and shipmates in the U.S. Armed Forces, preserving for us the rights, privileges and freedoms we enjoy today.”
That flag is not just a piece of cloth. It is both a symbol for what we stand for today and for what it took to get us here. You may not like us, our flag, our culture, our traditions or our God, and that is your right. But here’s my question, if you really hate everything this country stands for, why wouldn’t you just exercise your sweet freedom and move someplace else?
6. Your enemy may not always be your enemy.
Have you ever been betrayed by someone close to you? It’s not a pleasant experience. One minute, you think they’ve got your back, then boom… your secrets are everywhere. You might as well be on the front page of a trashy tabloid. And while leaked information is damage enough, what hurts even worse is that your trust was betrayed.
Chances are, that’s happened to just about everybody at some point, but have you ever considered the exact opposite?
Imagine this… one day, you get a call out of the clear blue from someone who has historically disagreed with your worldview. You imagine that the conversation will soon turn south as many of your previous conversations have, but to your surprise, your former “enemy” has changed their opinion on a hot topic, and now they’re thinking is in line with your thinking. You finally agree on something! Yay! After the initial shock wears off though, you can’t help but recall all those times that you resorted to name-calling, screaming, cursing and gossiping back when you two were sworn enemies. You then hope and pray that they don’t confront you about your carnal behavior in the future, because honestly, you don’t have an answer for it.
You know, crazier things have happened. It is genuinely within the realm of possibility that it may occur in your own life. I mean, there may actually come a day when they “see the light”. So, please… be kind. Love the people who hate you unconditionally, and treat them with respect. It just might be your Christ-like demeanor and godly testimony that eventually wins them over.
7. Practice good listening
“He that answereth a matter before he heareth it, it is folly and shame unto him.” Proverbs 18:13
Let’s be honest. Sometimes, we Christians fail to be good listeners. We feel like we know what’s best because we know God’s Word, therefore we don’t even really hear people out. And that, in turn, creates even more frustration.
As a husband, when my wife begins telling me about her problems at the close of the day, my tendency is to just try to find her some solutions. My motives are usually good as I seek to be the hero and “save the day”. It’s funny though, because sometimes I’ll end up somehow adding to the conflict. Know why? Because 99% of the time, my sweet wife isn’t pandering for a problem solver, she just needs to know that somebody (aka… hubby) is listening.
I tend to think we could learn a lot from other people if we would just be willing to genuinely listen to their opinion. You don’t have to accept their viewpoint, adopt their way of life or champion their cause, but just being willing to listen will go a long way.
8. Act, don’t react
Whoever said, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me” was a liar. Truth is, words not only hurt, but they leave deep, gaping wounds. That’s why we need to be very careful about what we say to other people. Once those words are out there, there’s no taking them back. You can apologize, say that you didn’t really mean it, or whatever, but what’s said is said. You can never retract that breath. Peter went so far as to say in I Peter 4:11, “If any man speak, let him speak as the oracles of God;” In other words, when you open your mouth, speak as if each and every word you say is being recorded in a book, because, as a matter of fact they are. Matthew 12:36 says, “But I say unto you, That every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment.” Scary huh? Every discreet phone conversation, every critique of the boss, every unmerciful, derogatory comment towards the people you don’t like will be brought to light.
“A soft answer turneth away wrath: but grievous words stir up anger.” Proverbs 15:1. I’m ashamed to say, but, in the world of social media, I have seen more than quite a few of people who claim to know the Prince of Peace who utilize social media as a whipping post. Allow me to lovingly say that this is just wrong. Yes, Christian, the Bible does say, “Be ye angry…” but don’t forget that it also says, “…and sin not.”
9. You only have one enemy
“I see dead people.” Famous line from The Sixth Sense that people still say. What if we could, even for a moment, get a glimpse of the spiritual battle that rages all around us at any given time? The Bible tells us that’s what’s going on in Ephesians 6:12, “For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.” And guess what? Those powers have enlisted the help of individuals today. People everywhere have fallen prey to the slippery tricks of those dark forces. Some have knowingly entered into a contract with them while others simply blindly do as they feel. All are being controlled by the master puppeteer. That is, the wicked one. Therefore, we must remember that those people, who we think are our enemies, are actually not our enemies. Instead, they are being played by the real enemy.
You may face angry expressions, name-calling, derogatory statements and overall hatred for your beliefs. They will come after you for your faith in that archaic, outdated and offensive Book. They will label you as their enemy. And that’s got to be okay with you. It comes with the territory. But don’t forget, THEY are not the enemy; the devil is. There is NO hope for him as his fate has already been decided, but there IS hope for them. So don’t give up. Hear them. Be kind to them. Help them. Pray for them. And when the time is right, lead them to the cross.
10. Don’t forget the main thing.
At the end of the day, if you are a Christian, there is one goal that ought to supersede any other. That is, that people might come to know Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. It is more important than being right about a particular issue, or being able to say, “I told you so”, or winning some internet debate. The desire to see people, who were once lost in darkness, saved and legitimately changed should be the reason we do what we do. Therefore, it is critically imperative that we strive to keep it in the forefront of our minds every day.
Consider this. What do you think would happen if you were to exercise Christ’s love towards the people who hate you? A tidal wave of Scriptures come to mind, but I’ll just share one.
“Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy. But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;” – Matthew 5:43, 44.
I gotta admit, reading this sometimes, I’m like, “For real Jesus?” I mean, that’s hard to swallow. But think about it… anybody can lash out and retaliate to an attack. After all, that’s just what we do. It’s how we’re wired. But if you fight fire with fire, you’ve still got… you guessed it… fire. But, what if you fought hatred with love? What if you used soft words to combat angry words? What if you fought fire with… water? It is this type of non-judgmental, loving response that causes the hardest of hearts to take a second look. It’s odd, it’s abnormal, unnatural even, but it’s exactly this unconditional love that breaks chains and sets people free.
Christian, have you ever felt that you just don’t fit in? Like a fish out of water? Like a square peg in a round hole? Well, there’s a perfectly good reason for that. It’s because you actually don’t belong. You are just passing through because this world is not your home. We are sojourners in this land headed towards a final destination beyond the grave. There are no tears there. No sorrow. No loneliness. No death. No disagreement. No pain. No abandonment. No corruption. No night. Rest easy my friend, because before you know it, this struggle will all be over. You will close your eyes for the very last time in this life, and the next time you open them, you will be in the presence of the Lord. Soon enough, that time will come. Until then though, you and I are in a firefight. The battle of light and darkness rages all around us, and many times we aren’t even aware of it. This is not a game. Life is not simply recreational activity. It is preparation for the life to come. So remember Who you serve, remember why you are here and maybe someday you’ll be able to say, “I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith:” II Timothy 4:7.