Wednesday, September 27, 2017

A Time To...Kneel? How about a time to heal!

Much has already been stated about the protests the NFL players, owners, and pundits demonstrated this past Sunday, so what could an obscure pastor in small town America have to say about it that hasn't already been said?

Well, I wrote earlier on my Facebook page that very rarely, if ever, has the United States been truly united in anything but name only. And I stand by that assessment as someone who loves and studies history as much as I do. We are truly an enigma of a country. How did we ever come to exist as an independent nation? The Founding Fathers aren't this monolithic group of men that held every belief and ideal in common. They were people with flaws like us who, despite their differences, found a way to come together and create something bigger than any single one of them could. Perhaps best representative of that reality is the aristocratic Thomas Jefferson facing off with the poor immigrant Alexander Hamilton. Both had a vision of America deeply rooted in vastly different experiences and backgrounds, but this young nation needed both, as well as the many others who fell somewhere in between.

There has always been a divide between the "haves" and the "have nots." It's the result of sin's presence in the world. Some may be dismissive that this divide exists, insisting that if one simply works hard enough, any circumstance can be overcome. Others may be very aware of it and work to remove those barriers. These realities did not come about with the founding of our nation, they have been part of our world from nearly the very beginning. And despite what some might say, I do not believe it was God's intention to create the world this way.

There has always been those clamoring for justice against injustice. But we can't seem to agree on what that means. We all might have an idea of what it means, but like everything else it's an opinion rooted in our experiences.

I think for many, it is hard to reconcile how athletes who have multi-million dollar contracts to play a game could speak about injustice, when those who risk their lives on a day to day basis often have difficulty making ends meet. And what about teachers? What about preachers?

Others might say they are using their rarefied platform to bring these issues to the forefront and make them the forefront of the national conversation, forcing us to take notice. Many of these athletes may have come from those neighborhoods that are surrounded by their vision of injustice, so it's an issue that is near and dear to them.

I think there are some good arguments that can be made on all sides, but truth be told I'm done with arguing.

A big part of the problem, as I see it, is governments and legislation have never been able to fix the problems that plague our world, because the problem is sin. Legislation cannot fix sin. Better education and better opportunities cannot fix sin. Redistribution of wealth or pulling ourselves up by our own bootstraps cannot fix sin. Better morals and values cannot fix sin. There is nothing in this world that can fix the problem of sin outside of the blood of Jesus that was shed so that we no longer had to live in the power of sin.

We as the redeemed people of God have the command from our Lord and Savior to both preach the gospel, proclaim repentance, and to do good works that glorify our Father in heaven. We have the Spirit of the Lord which raised Him from the dead alive in us, making it possible for us to do "greater things" than Jesus did.

What did our Savior do exactly? He knelt, but He did so in prayer. He knelt to reach down and pick others up whom society ignored and marginalized. He never knelt in protest, not that I read in scripture anyway. He knelt to write something in the sand that caused those clamoring for justice according to the Law to leave without carrying out that justice. His kneeling always seems to be followed by an action, it wasn't simply a gesture.

Like this country though, the Church in the United States seems to have differing views on what it means to truly represent Jesus. There are those who will preach the gospel to the exclusion of everything else. There are others who will take up for any and every cause. What was Jesus' cause though? What did He do to advance His cause? He preached the truth, and He worked. The two are not mutually exclusive concepts, and in fact should be brought together in order to proclaim and demonstrate the fullness of the gospel.

Why is there so much injustice in our country that athletes are willing to protest when one of the popular narratives of American evangelism is that we're a country founded on Christian principles? Maybe we as Christian Americans need to do some soul-searching on our own narrative, rather than be so quick to defend the actions of our country as though to speak out against it is to speak out against the gospel itself!

Rather than focusing on who's right, who's wrong, and why they're right or wrong, why can't we focus on the people God empowered us to be? The bearers of His image! The person that we see Jesus being! And imitating the person we see Jesus being! Not the image of Him we create to give ourselves comfort, but the Son of Man that the Bible describes Him as and the Holy Spirit that testifies His truth! To focus on anything distracts us from what we're here to do. That however doesn't give us a license to ignore what's going on. Rather, we should be at the forefront, not only speaking God's perspective, but demonstrating it.

In a worldly sense, kneeling in an NFL stadium may bring to light the things that are wrong. But ultimately what will it accomplish? As Christians, our focus needs to be on God, our Lord and Savior Jesus, and the Holy Spirit who empowers us to live and work as He did. We, under direction of the Lord, need to kneel in prayer, in repentance, and then get up and demonstrate how our God heals what is broken.

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