DO WE KNEEL OR DO WE STAND? How We Should Respond As Christians
Whether you’re an NFL guru, a political scientist, or a Monday morning quarterback, its inevitable you’re aware of what’s been buzzing in the media lately. Many players and teams have publicly positioned themselves against police brutality by kneeling for the national anthem and flag. Perhaps you’re kneeling with Kaepernick; perhaps not.
Maybe you’re on the fence about it.
But maybe you’re part of another vast portion of the population: you’re downright tired of hearing about it. Why should politics become a part of football, anyway? Let Brady keep throwing touchdowns and let Trump sit in Washington with his humorously long ties.
Regardless of where you stand on this issue, if you’re a Christian, it matters. At one end of the spectrum, we have a historically oppressed body of African American friends who are voicing their opinions on a seemingly perpetual battle against racial inequality (namely, police brutality). On the other end, we have proud, patriotic citizens who cringe at the idea of an individual publicly disrespecting our veterans, our anthem and our country.
So before you take a side and act on your natural “call to arms” on the issue (we all have an opinion), I want to challenge you to consider a different, more Christ-like response.
Ephesians 4, an Epistle of Paul writing to the Romans, is a great place for us to start unpacking what it looks like to have authentic unity. I think Paul had a pretty good idea of how opinionated people can be, because he starts out in verse 2 by saying:
“Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.” (Eph. 4:2–7 NIV)
Do you see that? Do you see those words? “Humble and gentle”. “Patient, bearing with one another in love”. Paul doesn’t advise us to wave our pointer fingers and rest our case first. In terms of opposing views, this will only create hostility between parties.
And in terms of a group in collective agreement on one side of the issue, it will only create strength in numbers, making it all too easy to dismiss any kind of opposing view.
Who’s to say one side is right and one side is wrong, anyway? I would submit to you that neither side is right or wrong. But we’re often too opinionated in our thinking; both judgement and hostility are slippery slopes. Isn’t our end goal unity as a body of believers? Aren’t we sent out to make disciples of all nations, in love? Aren’t we all sinners who have fallen short of God’s glory, yet freely given grace upon grace? So shouldn’t we do the same for one another, regardless of a political viewpoint?
Those of you in support of Kaepernick, I love and respect you. But there is a division among you and some disgruntled, patriotic citizens in this nation. I love your motives, but making an outright decision to kneel for our flag and anthem that many of us are proud of is inevitably going to cause tensions to rise. It would seem to some that this action has a disconnect between what the flag and anthem stand for and police brutality.
Those of you in support of the flag and anthem, I also love and respect you. I admire your patriotism. However, our African American friends are peacefully protesting police brutality, which is a stance that is pure and good in its cause. If you asked them, I don’t think you would find that any of these NFL players “hate America” or “hate our veterans”. Even if you don’t understand or agree with why anyone would kneel for the flag or anthem, at least respect their motives and recognize both police brutality and inequality as the underlying issues.
Jesus bridged the gap between us and God by dying on the cross for our sins out of love. We were so wicked yet so loved that he paid the price so we wouldn’t have to. His love is unending, and we can love because he first loved us. (1 John 4:19).
Jesus is the framework of how we (as Christians) should live our lives as we love Him and His people. Jesus can bridge the gap that frustration and misunderstanding widen. Our response to the issue is different because our viewpoint is love.
In the next week you will likely find yourself in a conversation with co-workers, friends, strangers, or family members regarding this issue. They may start ranting and raving on either side of the issue. The only thing you can control is how you will respond. Will you, will I, seek to bring unity and reconciliation in Jesus name?
My hope is that we’ll be inspired by what Paul says in Ephesians 4. My hope is that we’ll recognize the shame in disunity and see how divided the issue has caused our nation to become. My deepest hope is that we’ll have a uniquely different response for them in mind.