Since beginning the podcast back in January, I’ve not been as faithful to write blog posts. That, and the fact that I’ve been writing Renewed, has made for my blog being a little sparse for fresh content. Today, I’m sitting down to write something that may cost me. I’ve went back and forth in my mind over whether I should open my mouth, so instead of rushing to write, I posted a little question on Facebook last evening, just to see what we would see. Here’s what I posted:
By saying this, I’m not siding with anyone or even necessarily expressing my actual opinion… but more or less, just seeing how this flies with everyone.
I don’t watch pro sports on television anyways, and rarely attend them, so maybe I’m a little too far separated from the issue, but I couldn’t care less about the political opinions of any athlete. If I were to attend an NFL, NBA, or MLB game, I’m there to watch a game, have an overpriced hotdog, and hope I can get back to my car without being mugged or pick-pocketed.
What if…. we simply didn’t do the national anthem at sporting events? Can anyone actually identify the solid relationship between the love of a sport and the love of country? Perhaps if we stopped offering blatant opportunities for political protest, then we wouldn’t be any wiser about what the athletes think, and we could get back to enjoying sports and the athletes who play those sports…
The response was civil, but predictable. Even as I write this, people are still posting comments. Everyone fell into their ideological lanes. There were some who felt it was a non-issue and that the protestors were exercising appropriate peaceful protest. There were others who felt removing the national anthem would be caving in to privileged, millionaire athletes. Then there were some who suggested alternative ways to protest that might have equal or greater impact. All in all, I was not surprised by anyone’s response. Everyone stayed in their lane. And thankfully (so far) no one was disrespectful.
Allow me to clear the air first about where I stand before I go any further. I don’t think the national anthem should be taken out of sporting events. It’s a tradition that too many Americans treasure and removing it would be more divisive than the protest we’re currently witnessing. But in terms of peaceful protest, I don’t know if protest can be more peaceful than simply kneeling during the anthem. It’s better than looting. It’s better than blocking traffic on the streets. It’s better than any riot, any day. Is it offensive? Of course it is. Protest is supposed to be offensive. Do I think there are more effective ways to protest? Yes. I don’t think the current protest is generating the desired discussion. If you want to have a national conversation about race, this isn’t working. We’re now having a national conversation about the patriotism of professional athletes. The conversation has been derailed by the method of protest, and it seems nothing useful is being discussed. I don’t like the method of protest, but at the same time, it is still more desirable than anything that could lead to violence.
So now, to my reason for writing. This is to my Christian family, across denominational lines, across state borders, please hear me. In all of your protesting this form of protest, please keep the Kingdom of God in mind first. If what you say burns a bridge to someone else being willing to hear about Jesus from you, then consider keeping silent for the sake of the Kingdom. I love this country and the freedoms that have been fought for and provided to me. I can say what I’m saying now because men and women have fought and died to preserve this freedom for me. And I am grateful. However, as a person born again into God’s kingdom, I have a higher citizenship that only one man fought for and provided for me. Jesus Christ has given me eternal citizenship in a greater country. Any opinion, any exercise of protest, any thoughts I have about anything must be brought into submission to my greater citizenship, and the greater mission that God has placed me on as an ambassador of his kingdom.
You don’t have to like it when people protest the national anthem. I don’t like it. But you do need consider how you respond. Am I going to burn a bridge or build a bridge for the Gospel with what I want to say? Please, for the sake of future saved souls, if you think there’s even a remote chance of burning a bridge, keep your words. I understand that God is the one who saves, but he uses us as vessels of hope for the delivery of the Gospel. How hopeful are your comments and conversations? How are you trying to empathize with the broken? How much are you attempting to weep with those who weep and rejoice with those who rejoice?
A friend of mine called this whole business a distraction away from things that really matter. He’s right. Satan will entangle us in debating good things to keep us from sharing the best thing. If a healthy debate about patriotism and the national anthem will distract us, or worse, destroy our ability to effectively share the Gospel with all people groups and races,
then so be it then our Enemy has won. Patriotism is a good thing. The Kingdom of God is greater. Don’t be led astray.
For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers of this darkness, against evil, spiritual forces in the heavens. For this reason take up the full armor of God, so that you may be able to resist in the evil day, and having prepared everything, to take your stand. Stand, therefore, with truth like a belt around your waist, righteousness like armor on your chest, and your feet sandaled with readiness for the gospel of peace. In every situation take up the shield of faith with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit — which is the word of God. Pray at all times in the Spirit with every prayer and request, and stay alert with all perseverance and intercession for all the saints. (Ephesians 6:12-18)
Am I saying Christians should never say anything? Nope, not even close. But I am saying when you do speak up, measure what you say for Kingdom leverage.
I tell you that on the day of judgment people will have to account for every careless word they speak. (Matthew 12:36)