That’s a fiery combination, right? Some people shame the former and others balk at the latter (and, yes, I wouldn’t forget the group that rejects both of these powerful controversies!). But kneeling during the anthem and Christ our Lord are much more than “controversies”, and they have a unique, apparently unexpected meeting place.
Whether you support full participation during the anthem, appreciate a peaceful protest, or don’t want to develop an opinion, we, as Christians, have to determine what is motivating our behavior. Is your die-hard patriotism making you intolerant of anthem protests, so much so that nothing can give you pause before vehemently shaming those protesting? Or is your penchant for rebellion swelling at the sight of protesting, such that it doesn’t matter the cause or consequences? Or is your fear of conflict or your laziness keeping you from fostering ideas about it at all?
As Christians, patriotism, rebellion, fear, laziness, and all other motivators are second-level. First-level is our obedience to Christ. The deciding factor — the Gospel in our hearts. Nations crumble. Emotions pass. But The Lord is forever. And what does The Lord have us do when conflicts arise? When ideas clash, societies rage, and people hurt?
What He always has us do: “And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.” – Ephesians 6:18
On this occasion, and for every occasion, pause in prayer to listen to what God would have us do. Pray for wisdom. Pray for grace. Pray for whatever you need of God, but by all means, pray.
We should also use the tool God has given us to manage this ugly world: Scripture. And, using Scripture, might I suggest an application that you might not have yet considered? Ok, stay with me here.
When I consider the anthem protests, these Scriptures are on my heart:
“Speak out on behalf of the voiceless,
and for the rights of all who are vulnerable.
Speak out in order to judge with righteousness
and to defend the needy and the poor.” – Proverbs 31:8-10
“Defend the weak and the fatherless; uphold the cause of the poor and the oppressed.” – Psalm 82:3
I know it’s strange, unusual, and uncomfortable, because we haven’t seen it happen in a long time, but what is happening is this: we are being communicated with. Members of minority races and with impoverished backgrounds have taken up the burden of the oppressed (which is more than most of us can say) and spoken for the speechless, the unheard, the trodden. The kneelers, fist-raisers, and arm-chainers represent the minority, poor, and oppressed members of our society.
And, if you get nothing else out of this piece, take this: If The Lord has called us to be voice for the voiceless and defenders of the poor, how much more should we — at the very least — be listeners of the voiceless, oppressed, and poor?
This means that, while you might not “agree with the way they’re doing it”, this is how they’re doing it — and they deserve to be heard. Further, even if you believe you shouldn’t listen because you don’t agree with the way they’re telling it to you, listen to God. The Word doesn’t say “uphold the cause of the oppressed when they ask nicely or bear you gifts.” The Word says to uphold the cause of the oppressed. Representatives of the oppressed have asked you to conquer your pride to listen to their quiet voices — will you?
Consider for a moment the possibility that we don’t know everything — that there might be oppression and inequality in this nation as bad as they say. Research. Learn. Grow. And uphold the cause of the oppressed. We can’t do that with our eyes shut. (And by “eyes,” I of course mean hearts.)
It’s a scary thing, isn’t it, listening to others with our hearts? We shouldn’t be surprised, though, should we? God is always asking us to love with reckless abandon. Why should we expect him to let us sit idly now?
Maybe, as Christians, we’re just embittered because those “football men” have said more for the oppressed by kneeling once than we have our whole lives.