To NFL or not to NFL, that is the question. Is it? For the past several days I’ve read various points of view on the entire NFL flag and national anthem debate. At times I’ve felt myself pulled to take one side of the other. Yet, even though I’ve started more than one article on this - I did not have a great deal of peace about where to stand in the midst of the heated discussion on the matter. The more I thought about it the more I felt that I was being asked again and again, “Are you for Us or for Them?” As someone who is supremely interested in the glory of God and the proclamation of the Gospel, I respectfully want to say, “Neither.”
The danger of being forced to take one side or the other is that I don’t completely agree with either. Jesus said, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.” At the present time I do not see a whole lot of peacemaking being advanced. Being part of the Us or the Them (however you want to currently define each group) is not fostering any good will toward the other side. I watch as these kind of alliances are only fostering further vitriol - verbal now, but I fear it may not be long until it becomes physical. Let me hopefully give you something to think about if Jesus Christ is your Lord and Savior.
Philippians 2:1-11 is a passage that we need to consider before we side with Us or with Them. In that passage our Lord is used as the supreme example of the “attitude” we should have in our lives.
Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. (Philippians 2:3-8, NASB)
Jesus is God with all the rights and privileges of being God. Yet He gave up His rights and privileges (while continuing to be God of very God). He humbled Himself and gave His life as a sacrifice to pay for sin He had never committed. If there was anyone in all of history who was more wronged by what happened to Him, it was Jesus. Yet He gave Himself to God first - and to others who did not deserve what He did. We are called to do NOTHING unless we have a humility of mind that regards others as more important than ourselves. Because I try to understand how the person who has experienced racial injustice feels, as well as the police officer who has never abused his position - I cannot choose to be an Us or a Them. I want to love both of these people and hopefully share the love of God with them through the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Because I don’t want to diminish people who have been wronged by our justice system, as well as not treat lightly the sacrifice of our soldiers - I cannot become an Us or a Them in this conflict. Even if it costs me everything I want to do my best to walk with Jesus - make His gospel known to both the Us crowd and the Them crowd - refusing to be mischaracterized by both groups. They both need to hear the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
In Philippians 4 Paul also gave us some strong words from the Lord. These words were meant to provide us spiritual stability. It also might be good to remember that Paul wrote these words while sitting in a Roman prison. He was there because he had been falsely accused and was being held to placate his accusers. His house arrest was not for the most just of situations. Yet, he rejoiced not in personal vindication of his situation, but rather because the Gospel continued to be proclaimed in the world around him. His words were these,
“Rejoice in the Lord always, again I will say, rejoice! Let your gentle spirit be known to all men. The Lord is near. Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:4-7, NASB)
As I considered these words I realized that by becoming an Us of Them in this conflict I really would not be ultimately rejoicing in the Lord. What Paul meant by this was that my attitude should be that of rejoicing in the fact of my salvation in Jesus Christ and God’s grace. That is truly how I am identified. I am one who has received Jesus Christ by grace through faith - and therefore I have been rescued from the wrath and punishment rightly due for my sins. Next, I wanted to be known to all men by my “gentle spirit.” Any time I considered becoming an Us or Them - gentleness was not what I was being encouraged to express. I felt compelled by whatever side I was going to choose to lash out at the other side. That, I knew I could not do - and walk in the Spirit too. Then I saw that I was to be anxious for nothing. That was not how I felt at the thought of taking one side or the other in this. Anxiousness rose in my heart - along with a lot of other things that far more represented the deeds of the flesh rather than the fruit of the Spirit. Finally, I had to wonder if I fell prey to the Us vs. Them labels, would I truly be able to give myself over to prayer with thanksgiving to God? Would peace flood my heart if I did this? The answer to my questions due to the impact of the Scripture was, “No.”
So, what am I supposed to do in the midst of all this? First and foremost I am to submit myself to God for His direction in this situation. He calls me to love Him with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength. Next, He calls me to love my neighbor as myself. That is hard to do when my neighbor becomes, ‘one of Them.” I want to find ways to serve and love my neighbor - and especially to love my enemies (whoever they wind up being perceived as being). So, if anything - the “Thems” in this matter are those I should especially be seeking to love with the love of God.
Some will be frustrated by this article because they want me to “man up and take a side.” The side I want to take is that of making the Gospel of Jesus Christ known to all men. Consider this as I finish this article. What is the “Ultimate Us vs. Them Conflict” in the world? The Us is God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit vs. the Them, all humanity who are sinners. Unlike the current conflict we face - there is an absolute truth about Who is right and who is wrong in this conflict. God is the One Who is wronged - infinitely. Sinners (which includes all the sons and daughters of Adam and Eve) - are those who are infinitely guilty for their rebellion against God as evidenced in their disregard of His Law and their ungodliness and unrighteousness. Did the Trinity decide to remain in the Us vs. Them attitude or did God, in the person of the Son, Jesus Christ, choose to humble Himself and seek redemption and reconciliation? Thanks be to God for His wonderful grace and mercy, He chose redemption and reconciliation. He chose to come among Them as one of Them (except for sin) and then redeem Them by paying the penalty that all of Them deserved to pay themselves. This is why I have to answer the question, “Are you for Us or for Them?” by saying, “Neither.” It is my hope to speak the truth in love to the injustices for all men and women - and then to turn to the Gospel of Jesus Christ as our only hope for peace.
Most of these articles are taken from the Calvary Courier, a weekly newsletter that is sent to the folks who attend Calvary Chapel Jonesboro. Due to the response to these articles, we've decided to print some of them which proved to be very helpful to God's people at the fellowship.
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