Football, Flags, and Faith

It seems this issue with NFL players kneeling during the national anthem has stirred up some strong passions on both sides of the issue. Just a heads up ... if you're wanting me to clear up the issue for you or simply gives you ammo to affirm what you already believe, just stop reading now, go to the pantry and grab a bag of cookies, turn on the TV, and enjoy something more productive. However, if you're willing to struggle through it with me then keep reading.

Let me first lay a foundation ... we (Christians) tend to not want to listen to and hear others. Just yesterday I was privileged to attend a one-day workshop with the ministry of Evangelize Today and Allan Dayhoff ... this is who I've been working with the past year in evangelism. The fundamental principle of Evangelize Today is that we must shift from "listening to respond" to "listening to hear." We've been taught that we as Christians are to speak (true) and that we have the truth on our side when we speak (also true) and the quicker we speak all this truth to someone the better (not true at all). Sometimes this actually does more harm than good. Fact is, the non-Christian is still created in God's image and, therefore, is due the respect, worth, and dignity of actually hearing what he/she has to say before we unload all our information, effectively treating him as a project rather than person. Theology is on our side here ... because our unbelieving friend really does bear the image of God, that image will come through as we patiently wait for it. We will surely find, most likely in some sort of common wound or hurt, some way to connect and engage with the unbeliever. Yet we must first actually listen to and hear this person. 

It seems like most anytime someone comes along with ideas or actions that seem foreign to us we are quick to condemn and recite everything we know about the matter. We probably learned this from our parents. How often did our parents take the time to sit down with us for a discussion and we left feeling we'd been "heard"? (I realize some parents did this but most didn't.) And now, how often do we wish to "hear" what our children are saying to us? It's much easier to just let them rant and then respond with whatever we were going to say before they ever even opened their mouth. This same scenario plays out everyday not only at home in marriages and with children but also in the workplace, classroom, church, club, team, etc. We simply don't want to listen to anyone or anything that may challenge our cherished beliefs. Please hear me ... I'm definitely not saying we shouldn't have convictions or that we should cave in every time one of those convictions is challenged. I am saying that as Christians we are obligated to "love" our neighbor. This at least means showing him the respect of "listening to hear" what he's saying rather than demonizing him. How many of us have already had or are willing to have this conversation? Again, I'm not urging anyone to change their convictions about our country, the military, patriotism, respect for the flag, or anything like that. I am asking us to develop the conviction of seeking first God's Kingdom and His rule in our lives.

One other thing to consider ... and I don't think it will be new to you. Often when our emotions get aroused and enraged, we have to explore whether or not an idol is being exposed. Oftentimes this is exactly what's happening ... an idol comes under attack and we become overly sensitive. This idol gives us meaning, purpose, assurance, confidence, and hope and the thought of it being diminished is unsettling. Yes, I know I'm treading on some rather sacred ground when I suggest that the flag and national anthem could be idols but I'm committed to the absolute truth that we have a higher allegiance to God and His Kingdom. (btw, while I never served in the military, my dad and several uncles did during WWII and I typically tear up during the national anthem.)  These same emotions get stirred up when idols of family, children, college football, work, money, hobby, fashion, etc. are exposed. This is just a reminder to not be guided by our emotions, but rather be guided by the Holy Spirit as He illumines our hearts and minds to the Word of God.